Kale or black cabbage, cavolo nero?

this has been many times a question.

For Italian speaking people it seems strange as we have only the word cavolo that covers cabbage and  Kale. Then we have different names for the various ones.

Kale or leaf cabbage, belongs to a group of cabbage (Brassica oleracea) grown for their edible leaves, some are used as ornamentals.

 Kale plants have green or purple leaves, and the central leaves do not form a head as with headed cabbage.

 The different varieties of cabbage have numerous uses in the kitchen. They are widely used in Italian cuisine, and also in European and Asian cuisine, both raw and cooked. For each variety there are special recipes and uses.

The nutritional value and benefits of cabbage and kale  have been recognized, especially for rebuilding the body’s mineral reserves. But we do not want to go into this. There are much more experienced people who can explain the advantages of this vegetable used for centuries.

Let’s go back to the name in Italian cavolo nero, in English it has many names, probably because of the first importers.

Photo by Eva Bronzini on Pexels.com Curly Kale

It is definitely a kale but the word kale is normally more used for the curly kale, less common in Italian cuisine.

If we classify by leaf type, we have:

  • Curly-leaf (Scots kale, blue curled kale)
  • Bumpy-leaf (black cabbage, better known by its Italian translation ‘cavolo nero’, and also known as Tuscan Cabbage, Tuscan Kale,lacinato and dinosaur kale)
  • Plain-leaf (flat-leaf types like red Russian and white Russian kale)
  • Leaf and spear, or feathery-type leaf (a cross between curly- and plain-leaf)
  • Ornamental (less palatable and tougher leaves)
Photo by Sayanti Roy on Pexels.com

After long research also with seed producers in the various countries we have  a collection of names for the cavolo nero, that could be extended if your supermarket decides to change the name.

Black cabbage Cavolo Nero


 Tuscan kale aka Lacinato kale aka Dinosaur Kale 

Even Amazon.com calls it Nero di Toscana


Kale Lacinato/Dinosaur/Black Tuscan

Have a look at www.incredibleseeds.ca


Tuscan Cavolo Nero /Nero di Toscana  as The Diggers Club call it after bringing it in Australia 25 years ago

In EUROPE it seems much easier as it’s usually a pure translation of Cavolo Nero

 in German Schwarzkohl

in French chou noir

in Dutch zwarte Kool

in Spanish repollo negro

in Polish czarna kapusta.

We concentrated on the Cavolo Nero because it is so common in Tuscan recipes, it can be replaced by other cabbages but there can always be a little difference in flavor. Kale typically tastes milder than regular cabbage, and young kale leaves and black kale (aka cavolo nero) have a milder flavor than mature leaves of curly kale.

” That is also why it is best to use baby kale or black kale if you want to whip up a kale smoothie that tastes good”, said by a smoothie expert, not me.

These are some Cavolo Nero recipes:

Quick Tuscan Black Cabbage Sauce

Creamy Vegetarian Tuscan Soup

Fancy Healthy Lentils

Traditional Crostoni with Black Cabbage

Unique Farro Beans Cabbage

Tuscan Ribollita

Buon appetito with healthy food !!!