Your Burning Questions

How to Use Kale Stems

By • April 19, 2014 • 19 Comments

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: We love kale's leaves, but its tough stems stump us. In honor of Earth Day, we're about to change that.

We love kale, and that's no secret. We have no problem eating its leaves in bulk -- in salads, soups, pilaf, beans, at breakfast -- really, pretty much everywhere except dessert. (And even that's not totally off the table. We like parsley in cake, so you never know...)

But when dinner's over, kale's stems still stump us. Where its bitter leaves will relax for a raw salad, its tough stalks don't let down their walls -- deep-tissue massages and mood lighting are no use. In honor of Earth Day, we're about to change that. Felicia M asked for ways to use kale stems beyond the compost pile, and the community was full of ideas:

  • Naomi cooks them fresh: "I cut them into small pieces, sauté them first (they take longer to cook), then add the cut-up leaves, and then some freshly grated nutmeg, minced fresh garlic, salt, and pepper at the end. Can't be better (or any easier)."
  • Break out the canning jars and try your hand at preserving, like claire miller, who pickles them or breaks them down in a food processor to ferment, kimchi-style.
  • Several of you suggested the classic scrap treatment: a good simmer in the stockpot. Says Eliz.: "We're told that members of the brassica family are too assertive for such use...but kale does not overpower." First We Eat agrees, but suggests adding other vegetables to balance the flavor.
  • Try blending them into your juice and smoothies, like lisina does. The fibrous stems are best paired with creamier add-ins -- think banana, avocado, or yogurt.
  • ChefJune and magpiebaker both wondered about the possibility of prepping them as one might prep chard stems -- braising or dredging and frying à la The Zuni Café Cookbook. The jury's out on this one -- others note that kale's stems are tougher than chard's -- but it may be worth a shot for the experimenters among you. (If you try something great, let us know!)

How do you use tough vegetable stems? Tell us in the comments!

Jump to Comments (19)

Tags: how-to & diy, hotline, best question, kale stems, recycling, stock

Comments (19)

Default-small
Default-small
Default-small

25 days ago Elizabeth

ditto great idea Sharon
from now on I will do the same

Default-small

3 months ago Jean

Put them in green smoothies!

Stringio

4 months ago Sara Rollins

I munch on them raw while I'm cooking. The stems are my favorite part!

Stringio

4 months ago Marilyn Lisenbee

Good Idea, Sharon. I so like making my own broths.

Default-small

4 months ago Sharon

I save all my veggie "scraps", throw them in a bag in the freezer. When I have enough I wrap them in cheesecloth, place them in the crockpot, fill with water. A few hours later you have the most AMAZING veggie broth!!!

Default-small

4 months ago Literary Equivalent

I finely cut them crosswise and add them to soups or rice dishes: stir fries, risottos. Yum.

Default-small

4 months ago hugo rivera

Used the stems mixed with other veggies to make soup, salad or oriental disehes...

Default-small

4 months ago Erika

I feed them to our chickens!

Stringio

4 months ago Marilyn Lisenbee

I lay them across the cookie sheet then lay the Kale Chips down on them thus the chips are crispier.

Default-small

4 months ago Sarah Robinson

What about shredding them into a slaw with carrots and radishes and such?

Default-small

4 months ago sjlongin

My dog loves them! Seriously.

Default-small

4 months ago shw23561

Mine too! She gets really excited whenever I make kale.

Stringio

4 months ago Doc Trinidad

love blueberry and kale ice cream!

Jennifer_rinde_2010_web_2

4 months ago Jennifer Rinde

Yes, I use kale stems in my smoothies and they blend beautifully!

Stringio

4 months ago Lynn Chen

I used them in a soup:
http://theactorsdiet.com...

It was really good, but I think I'd pass it through a sieve next time first. Stringy!

Img_7991

4 months ago Sara S.

What about putting them in the food processor when you make a white bean dip or a non-traditional pesto?

Stringio

4 months ago Sarah Ostaszewski

After reading this post's introduction, I had to share this blog. Kale can be great for dessert! http://veggiedesserts.co...

Kh-cooking-..-

4 months ago Kate | Veggie Desserts

Thanks for mentioning my blog, Sarah!
You can cook and puree the kale, including the smaller stems, and use them in my Apple Pie with Kale Lemon Crust, Kale and Apple Cake, Kale and Orange Cupcakes...

Default-small

4 months ago dchu

They're not bad dipped in peanut butter (or other nut butter of choice)--kind of like celery and PB, but chewier. I don't think I could eat all the stems from a bunch, but 2 or 3 make a nice snack.