Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, but did you know that there are actually several different varieties of this leafy green? In fact what most people call kale is actually curly leafed kale, and another very common variety is Tuscan kale. If you’re serious about growing your own greens, you’ll want to know the differences between Tuscan kale vs. kale, their characteristics, taste, how to plant them and use them in recipes.
This article answers all your questions about Tuscan kale vs. kale, so you have a better idea of which variety you want to plant to use for your favorite salad or recipe.
|Classification||Brassica oleracea |
|Brassica oleracea |
|Scientific name||Brassica oleracea var. palmifolia||Brassica oleracea var. sabellica|
|Alternative names||dinosaur kale, cavolo nero, black kale, Italian kale, kale, flat back kale, palm tree kale, or black Tuscan palm.||Curly kale, Scots kale|
|Description||Long, dark green leaves with a pebbled surface|
Leaves have a strong central rib
Plant grows 2-3 feet in height and has a palm-like appearance
|Bright green leaves that curl|
Leaves have a smooth surface with a strong central rib
Plants grow up to 1-2 feet
|Uses||Tuscan kale can be added to salads, stir fry, scrambles, soup and pasta Pizza topping Kale chips Freeze-dried||Kale can be used in salads, sautéed and roasted Kale chips Freeze-dried|
|Distribution and growing conditions||Hardy and cold resistant plant Can tolerate frost and even overwinter under plant covers Grows year-round in warmer climates||Hardy and cold resistant plant Can tolerate frost and even overwinter under plant covers Grows year-round in warmer climates|
Tuscan Kale vs. Kale: Key Differences
Tuscan kale and kale both belong to the Brassica oleracea family of leafy vegetables, which also includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens. Within this genus, kale belongs to the Acephala or headless group.
The scientific name for Tuscan kale is Brassica oleracea var. palmifolia and curly kale is Brassica oleracea var. sabellica.
All types of kale are biennial plants, which have a lifespan of two years. In the first year, the plant produces a stalk and leaves. In the second year, it produces a flower stalk, which will hold several flowers. Each flower contains a seedhead, and when the seedhead matures, the plant’s lifecycle is complete.
Origin and Distribution
All varieties of kale have their origins in the Mediterranean but are now grown across Europe and worldwide. The hardy plants are very cold and heat resistant, and can survive frost. In fact frost improves the taste of the leaves because it turns some of the starch into sugar.
There are now four major varieties of kale:
- Curly kale, which is the familiar kind sold in most grocery stores
- Lacinato kale of Italy, also known as Tuscan kale
- Russian kale of Scandinavia which are very cold-resistant
- Baby kale microgreens
Kale, or curly kale, has bright green leaves that curl, as the name suggests. It has a bitter, peppery taste. Tuscan kale has long, dark green leaves with a pebbled surface, which has earned it the names of dinosaur kale and black kale.
The leaves of Tuscan kale are thinner and softer than kale leaves, though have a very heavy central rib which should be removed before coking and eating. The taste is less bitter than curly kale, and it has a nutty-sweet flavor.
In the garden you’ll see that Tuscan kale plants tend to grow taller and more upright than other varieties of kale. Tuscan kale plants can grow up to 2 to 3 feet in height and have a palm-like shape, which explains one of the alternative names for this variety. Curly kale plants are about 1-2 feet in height.
Due to their different taste and texture, the preparation and cooking methods for Tuscan kale and kale vary somewhat, and each is better suited for some recipes than others.
While kale is more easily available in grocery stores, many cooks prefer Tuscan kale because it is easier to prepare and cook. However, this is a personal preference and others prefer curly kale for its pretty appearance and stronger taste.
Curly kale can be sautéed or roasted. When used in salads, a little salt and lemon or vinegar is added to make it less tough and more chewable.
Tuscan kale has been used in Mediterranean cooking for centuries. Because the leaves are thinner and softer than curly kale, it is more versatile and cooks more quickly and easily. Further, it needs less preparation and additions to produce a tender taste.
Tuscan kale can be used as a pizza topping, sautéed and added to soup, pasta and scrambled eggs. The leaves can be used raw in salads and slaws.
Both varieties can be freeze-dried and made into chips.
All varieties of kale are easy to grow because they are hardy and can be harvested from early spring into fall and even winter. In cold climates, they can overwinter with just a fabric row cover or a hoop house. In warmer climates, both Tuscan kale and kale can be grown year-round.
Kale grows best in fertile, well-drained soil. You can start out by adding compost to the beds to make the soil richer and more fertile. All varieties of kale can be grown from the seed. They can be started indoors and seedlings can be transplanted outside.
If you prefer to plant the seeds directly outside, they can germinate in soil temperatures as low as as 40°F/4°C. In the ground, the seeds or seedlings should be spaced about 2 feet apart. If you have several rows, the plantings should be staggered to give them more room.
You can plant kale outdoors quiet early, because they can tolerate a little frost. All varieties of kale prefer full sun in cooler climates. In hot climates, a strong sun may give the leaves a more bitter flavor.
The leaves should be harvested when they are young and quite tender. It’s easiest to begin with the leaves on the outside so the inner leaves can continue growing and be harvested in their turn. Larger and older leaves tend to be tougher.
All kale varieties tend to attract pests like aphids and slugs. You can wash them off with a string stream of water, or pick off the larger pests by hand.
Tuscan Kale vs. Kale: Which Should You Choose?
When it comes to choosing between Tuscan Kale vs. Kale, the answer really depends on the recipes for which you want to use the greens. It’s also a very personal choice, based on the appearance and taste of the two varieties. The good news is that both types of kale are healthy and full of nutrients, and they’re both easy to grow.
- Collard Greens vs. Kale: What’s the Difference?
- Kale Seeds: How to Grow and Harvest This Leafy Green
- Can Dogs Eat Kale? Is it Healthy or Toxic?
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com
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- Bon Appetit, Available here: https://www.bonappetit.com/story/types-of-kale
- Dr. Weil, Available here: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/gardening/tuscan-kale/
- The Kitchn, Available here: https://www.thekitchn.com/curly-leafed-and-kale-ingredient-spotlight-166603
- Farmer's Almanac, Available here: https://www.almanac.com/plant/kale
- The Spruce, Available here: https://www.thespruce.com/growing-kale-1403516