How to Store Lacinato Kale

Lacinato kale, also known as “dinosaur kale” or “Tuscan kale,” is a popular dark, leafy green vegetable known for its nutritional wealth and earthy flavor, making it a favorite in a variety of dishes.

Keeping lacinato kale fresh is essential, and understanding the proper storage techniques can significantly extend its shelf life.

When you buy lacinato kale, whether from a farmer’s market or a grocery store, it’s important to handle it carefully to maintain its crispness and nutrient content.

Lacinato kale is neatly stored in a refrigerator drawer, wrapped in a damp paper towel to maintain freshness

To store lacinato kale efficiently, initiate the process by ensuring the leaves are dry as moisture accelerates decay.

If you have washed the kale, thoroughly pat the leaves dry with a paper towel.

Wrap the kale loosely in a slightly damp paper towel to preserve its humidity without making it wet. This step helps to keep the kale fresh and slows down wilting.

Next, place the wrapped kale in a breathable bag, like a produce bag or a perforated plastic bag, to provide good air circulation.

Once your kale is wrapped and bagged, it’s crucial to find an ideal spot in your refrigerator.

The crisper drawer is typically the best choice for storage because it offers a cooler and more consistent environment.

Your lacinato kale can stay fresh in the fridge for 5 to 7 days following these practices. Remember not to overcrowd the storage bag; adequate space is needed to ensure proper air circulation, which is key to maintaining the freshness and crispness of the kale leaves.

Selecting Lacinato Kale

When you’re at the grocery store, identifying fresh Lacinato kale starts with examining the color and feel of the leaves, ensuring that you’re choosing the best produce for longevity and flavor.

Identifying Fresh Bunches

Inspect the dark green leaves for their vibrancy and firmness.

Your ideal bunch should have a robust color without any signs of yellowing or wilting. The leaves should be pliable yet crisp to the touch.

If they seem tender and succulent, it indicates freshness and that the kale is likely harvested after beneficial cold exposure, enhancing its sweetness.

Checking for Dirt and Debris

Before purchasing, give the kale a gentle shake and a visual check to dislodge and spot any dirt or debris that may be clinging to the leaves. This will save you time during the cleaning process at home.

Look closely at the crevices where dirt might hide, and opt for kale bunches that appear clean and well-handled to ensure minimal cleaning effort later.

Preparing Lacinato Kale for Storage

To ensure that your Lacinato kale remains fresh and nutrient-rich while in storage, effective preparation is crucial. This involves proper washing and drying techniques, removal of excess moisture, and dividing larger bunches into smaller, more manageable leaves if necessary.

Washing and Drying

Begin by thoroughly rinsing your Lacinato kale under cold running water to wash away any dirt or potential contaminants. Be gentle but thorough to ensure all debris is removed from the leaves.

  • Wash: Gently rinse each leaf.
  • Inspect: Look for and remove any damaged or wilted leaves.

After washing, the kale needs to be dried properly to prevent spoilage.

  • Dry: Pat the leaves dry using clean paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. This helps to remove excess moisture without damaging the leaves.

Removing Excess Moisture

It’s essential to eliminate as much moisture as possible from your kale before storing it to prevent mold and decay.

  • Pat Dry: Press down gently but firmly with a towel to absorb the water.
  • Use a salad spinner if available, to help whisk away any remaining water.

Dividing into Smaller Leaves if Necessary

If you have a large bunch of Lacinato kale, dividing it into smaller portions can be beneficial.

  • Tender Leaves: Smaller, tender leaves might not need as much trimming and can be easier to store.
  • Divide: Cut or tear the larger leaves into smaller pieces, if preferred, while being careful not to bruise the delicate leaves.

Storing Lacinato Kale in the Refrigerator

Fresh lacinato kale is placed in a clear plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator's crisper drawer. The refrigerator door is closed, and the kale is kept at a temperature of 32-39°F

Proper storage in the refrigerator is crucial for maintaining the freshness and extending the shelf life of Lacinato kale. You’ll want to balance humidity and air exposure to keep the leaves crisp and green.

Using a Crisper Drawer for Optimal Humidity

Your refrigerator’s crisper drawer is designed to maintain a consistent level of humidity which is ideal for leafy greens. For Lacinato kale, set the drawer to a high humidity setting to prevent the leaves from wilting. You should:

  • Place the kale in the crisper drawer without washing it, as excess moisture can lead to spoilage.
  • Separate Lacinato kale from fruits that emit ethylene gas, like apples or bananas, which can accelerate decay.

Utilizing Paper Towels to Retain Freshness

Paper towels can help manage moisture levels around your kale:

  • Wrap the kale leaves lightly in paper towels. This will absorb any excess moisture, keeping the leaves dry and preventing mold.
  • Replace the paper towels as needed, especially if they become damp, to ensure your kale remains as fresh as possible.

Airtight Containers Versus Plastic Bags

Choose the right container to limit air exposure:

  • Airtight containers are excellent for storing washed and trimmed kale, keeping out excess air that can dry out the leaves. Airtight Containers Plastic Bags Prevents drying out Can lead to moisture Preserves crispness Risk of wilt and mold
  • Plastic bags can be used for whole bunches of kale. If using a plastic bag, ensure it’s loosely closed to allow for some air circulation and prevent excess moisture buildup.

Freezing Lacinato Kale

Properly freezing Lacinato kale ensures its longevity and preserves its nutritional value. Follow these steps to maximize quality when you freeze this leafy green.

Fresh Lacinato Kale in a sealed plastic bag inside a refrigerator

Blanching and Cooling

Before freezing kale, it’s essential to blanch it. Blanching means to:

  1. Boil the kale leaves in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Promptly cool them by plunging into an ice water bath to halt the cooking process.

This process enhances the color and flavor while minimizing loss of nutrients.

Freezer Bag or Airtight Container Usage

For storage, use freezer bags or airtight containers:

  • Dry the blanched kale thoroughly with towels or a salad spinner.
  • Pack the kale into the chosen storage method, ensuring you remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
  • Label the containers with the freezing date.

Frozen kale can be safely stored in your freezer for 8-10 months, maintaining quality and freshness.

Extending Shelf Life and Preventing Spoilage

Proper storage can markedly extend the shelf life of Lacinato kale, keeping it fresh and nutritious. By managing temperature, humidity, and ethylene gas exposure, you can prevent spoilage and enjoy your kale for a longer period.

Managing Temperature and Humidity

Temperature: Your refrigerator should be your go-to option for storing Lacinato kale, ideally within the crisper drawer.

Set your fridge to maintain an optimal temperature between 32°F (0°C) and 40°F (4°C). This cool environment slows down the decay process by reducing the rate of respiration of the kale.

  • Refrigerator Settings:
    • Temperature: Maintain between 32°F and 40°F
    • Humidity: Use the crisper drawer settings to adjust for higher humidity

Humidity: Kale thrives in a humid environment, which helps to keep it crisp.

Use the humidity control feature of your refrigerator’s crisper drawer to maintain a higher humidity level while ensuring there’s no excess moisture, as this could lead to bacterial growth and faster spoilage.

  • Moisture Prevention:
    • Avoid washing kale before storage to keep additional moisture at bay.
    • Instead, wash kale right before use.

Understanding Ethylene Gas Effects

Ethylene Gas is a natural plant hormone emitted by some fruits and vegetables, which can accelerate ripening and, eventually, spoilage. Lacinato kale is sensitive to ethylene, and storing it away from ethylene-producing items like apples or bananas is crucial.

  • Ethylene Producers: Apples, bananas, tomatoes, and avocados
  • Storage Tips:
    • Isolate Lacinato kale by keeping it in a separate section of your fridge away from known ethylene producers.
    • Using airtight containers or sealed produce bags may offer additional protection from ethylene gas.

Using Lacinato Kale in Meals

Lacinato kale stored in a refrigerator, tightly wrapped in a damp paper towel inside a plastic bag

Lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale, is a versatile leafy green that you can easily incorporate into your meals. Rich in fiber, iron, vitamins, and antioxidants, it boosts the nutritional value of any dish.

Incorporating into Salads and Soups

Salads: For a nutritious and hearty salad, start by removing the stems from the lacinato kale and chopping the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Massage the kale with a bit of olive oil to soften it.

You can then pair it with ingredients like nuts, dried fruit, or shaved parmesan to create a salad bursting with flavor and essential minerals.

Soups: Lacinato kale’s robust texture holds up well in soups.

Slice the kale into thin ribbons and add them to your soup during the last few minutes of cooking to preserve their color and nutrients.

Whether you’re making a vegetable soup or a meat-based stew, kale adds a nutritional punch and layers of flavor.

Creating Smoothies and Juices

For a quick nutritional boost, include lacinato kale in your smoothies or juices.

To make a green smoothie, combine kale leaves with fruits such as bananas or berries, and a liquid base like almond milk.

This blend will create a smoothie rich in vitamins and antioxidants.

If you prefer juices, add a handful of kale leaves to other juicing vegetables; the kale will provide a mild flavor while contributing iron and fiber to your drink.

Preparing as a Side or Main Dish

Side Dish: A simple sauté can turn kale into a delicious side.

Heat olive oil with garlic, then add chopped kale and cook until slightly wilted.

This method retains the kale’s nutritional value and its minerals become more bioavailable.

Main Dish: If you’re meal prepping, consider using lacinato kale as the foundation for a main dish.

Incorporate it into quiches, casseroles, or stir-fries.

The kale’s sturdy leaves are ideal for absorbing flavors from spices, sauces, and other ingredients you might include.

Tips for Lacinato Kale Longevity

Ensuring the longevity of your Lacinato kale involves proper storage techniques aimed at preventing damage and spoilage. Being vigilant in these practices will keep your kale fresh and enjoyable for as long as possible.

Avoiding Damage During Storage

To prevent wilting and damage to your Lacinato kale during storage, follow these guidelines:

  • Temperature: Store kale in a cool environment, preferably a refrigerator set between 32°F and 40°F.
  • Preparation: Before storing, remove any damaged or yellowed leaves.
  • Rinsing: Cleanse under cold running water to remove bacteria and prevent mold.
  • Drying: Pat the kale dry with paper towels. Moisture can lead to wilting and bacteria growth.
  • Air Circulation: Place it in a container or plastic bag with air circulation to prevent condensation.

Properly handled kale should stay fresh and crisp, reducing the risk of spoilage.

Checking for Signs of Spoilage Regularly

Regular checks are essential to ensure that your kale has not started to spoil. Look for these indicators of spoilage:

  • Color: Yellowing leaves are often an early sign of decay.
  • Texture: Wilted or slimy leaves indicate that spoilage has begun.
  • Odor: An off smell is a clear indicator of spoilage and possibly bacteria growth.
  • Mold: Any signs of mold mean the kale should be discarded immediately.

By promptly removing any spoiled leaves, you can protect the remaining kale from further spoilage, prolonging its shelf life.

Alternative Uses for Lacinato Kale

Lacinato kale stored in airtight container in refrigerator. Some leaves chopped for smoothie, others used in salad. A recipe book nearby

Lacinato kale, often known for its nutrient-dense leaves, offers versatile uses beyond typical salads and sautés. If you’re aiming to incorporate more greens like kale into your diet, consider these innovative and nutritious options.

Kale Chips and Snacks

Transform your Lacinato kale leaves into kale chips, a crispy and healthy alternative to traditional potato chips. To make them:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Wash and dry the kale leaves thoroughly.
  3. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces, discarding the stems.
  4. Toss the pieces with a little olive oil and your choice of seasonings.
  5. Spread them on a baking sheet and bake until the edges are slightly brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Kale chips can incorporate various flavors, from simple salt and pepper to more exotic seasonings. They provide a low-calorie snack rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as minerals like calcium and iron.

Kale as an Additive for Boosting Nutrition

Incorporate Lacinato kale into your diet as a nutritional booster. Here are specific ways to do that:

  • Smoothies: Add kale to fruit smoothies for an extra dose of nutrients without significantly altering the flavor. Combine with fruits like bananas to mask the taste of kale while getting the vitamin benefits.
  • Juices: Juice kale with a mix of other vegetables and fruits to create a powerful, nutrient-rich drink.
  • Soups: Stir chopped kale into soups during the last few minutes of cooking to retain its texture and nutrients.
  • Omelets: Mix finely chopped kale into your omelets or scrambled eggs to start your day with a healthy serving of leafy greens.

Frequently Asked Questions

Proper storage can significantly extend the freshness of lacinato kale. Below are concise answers to common questions regarding kale storage methods.

How can you keep kale fresh without a refrigerator?

To keep kale fresh without a refrigerator, store it in a cool, shaded place.

Wrap the leaves in a damp cloth or paper towel and place them in an airtight container to retain moisture and freshness for a couple of days.

What is the best way to store kale in the freezer?

For freezing kale, wash and chop the leaves, blanch them for two minutes, plunge into ice water, drain thoroughly, and then place in airtight freezer bags. This method helps preserve the kale’s texture and nutrients.

Can kale be preserved in water for extended freshness?

Storing kale stems in a jar with water, just like fresh flowers, can keep it vibrant.

Change the water daily, and cover the leaves with a plastic bag to retain moisture and freshness.

What are the recommended methods for storing chopped kale?

Chopped kale should be stored in a sealed container lined with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

Keep it in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer to maintain freshness for several days.

How long can you expect lacinato kale to last when refrigerated?

When properly refrigerated in a cool environment between 32°F (0°C) and 40°F (4°C), lacinato kale can last for about 5 to 7 days, with optimal freshness if consumed sooner.

Is it advisable to store kale wet or should it be kept dry?

Kale should be kept dry when stored in the refrigerator. Excess moisture can promote decay.

If the kale is washed, ensure it is thoroughly dried before storage.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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