Russian Red has silvery-green to blue-gray leaves that look like a cross between a turnip green and a highly lobed oak leaf. This kale doesn’t have the frills of the curly kales or the deep folded crinkles of Tuscan kale. Its flat and the lobes reach almost to the stem.
You’ll find Russian Red more magenta to ruby red about the veins, particularly in early spring. That’s what cold weather will do to this kale. When the weather moderates, you’ll find Russian Red more gray or green than red. Either way, after cooking this kale turns deep green.
Don’t expect Russian Red to be tender when harvested young like other kales. From the get-go Russian Red leaves are chewy. Don’t even think about sinking your teeth into the stems.
Here’s how to prepare Russian Red: strip out the mature stems, no amount of cooking will soften them. Hold the lower leaf base up in one hand and pull the stem downward with the other. Simply strip away the leaf. Be sure to rinse the leaf pieces.
Blanch Russian Red in salted water, drain then sauté. Sauté this kale in olive or nut oil, butter, bacon, or pancetta. You can season with olives, garlic, chilli, cumin, caraway, fennel, anise, or toasted sesame oil. If you want a stronger flavor, braise Russian Red in stock. Cook until tender, but remember this kale is not going to melt in your mouth like curly kale.
The very smallest Russian Red leaves can be used as garnish or in salad. When you pick this kale up at the farm market, pick up a little extra. Once the stems are stripped away the highly lobed leaves offer less leaf surface than other kales.
Similar cultivars to Russian Red are Siberian, Ragged Jack, White Russian, Red Ursa, and Winter Red.
The botanical name for Russian Red is Brassica napus, Paularia Group.