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11 Interesting Facts About Cavolo Nero

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Cavolo nero, also known as Tuscan kale, lacinato kale, or dinosaur kale, is a unique dark green leafy vegetable with an intriguing history. Originally from Italy, cavolo nero has a distinctive long, wrinkly appearance that resembles dinosaur skin, hence the nickname “dinosaur kale.”

While kale has experienced a major resurgence in popularity in recent years, cavolo nero deserves special recognition. Here are 11 fascinating facts about this nutritional powerhouse veggie:

Cavolo Nero from the Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers' Market
Cavolo Nero from the Collingwood Children’s Farm Farmers’ Market by avlxyz is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 .

1. Cavolo Nero is a Form of Kale

Cavolo nero is a member of the Brassica oleracea species, the same species as kale and other leafy greens like collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage. It is a cultivar of kale that originated in Tuscany, Italy, which is why it is also called “Tuscan kale.”

2. It Has Been Around for Centuries

The origins of cavolo nero can be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. It has been cultivated in the Tuscany region since at least the 13th or 14th century.

So while kale shakes and chips may be trendy now, cavolo nero has actually been popular for over 700 years!

3. The Name Means “Black Cabbage” in Italian

The Italian name “cavolo nero” literally translates to “black cabbage” in English. This refers to the vegetable’s very dark green, almost black-looking leaves.

The name lacinato comes from the Italian “lacinato” meaning “cut” or “torn”, which describes the kale’s jagged edges.

4. It Has a Unique Texture and Taste

Cavolo nero has a more delicate flavor compared to curly kale. It has subtle bitter notes that become sweeter and nuttier once cooked.

The leaves are also tougher and more fibrous than regular kale, with a velvety, smooth texture. The stalks are firm but edible too.

5. Cavolo Nero is Extremely Nutritious

All kale varieties are nutritional rock stars. However, cavolo nero is especially high in valuable antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol.

It also boasts plenty of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, iron, and fiber. In particular, it has high levels of eye-protecting lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids.

6. You Can Enjoy it Raw or Cooked

Cavolo nero holds up better to cooking than curly kale but also makes for a tender, mild-flavored addition to salads when used raw.

Popular cooked preparations include sautéing, braising, adding to soups, pastas, risottos, and more. Blanching or steaming helps reduce bitterness.

7. It is Mostly Grown in Italy and the West Coast of the U.S.

Italy remains the leading producer of cavolo nero, where it is a beloved ingredient. However, it is also grown along the West Coast of the United States, especially in California.

The climate in Tuscany and California is ideal for cavolo nero to thrive without too much frost or heat. It is relatively difficult to find on the East Coast.

8. Cavolo Nero Inspired Tuscan Kale Pesto

In addition to minestrone soup and ribollita, a popular Tuscan dish is pasta al pesto di cavolo nero. This features a flavorful sauce made from cavolo nero, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts or walnuts, parmesan, lemon, and pepper.

9. It Has Not Caught On Everywhere Yet

While cavolo nero has a cult following among foodies and health enthusiasts, it still remains relatively unknown in many parts of the world. Curly green kale continues to dominate the global kale market.

However, its popularity is steadily rising thanks to its superior flavor and nutritional benefits. Expect to see more cavolo nero in grocery stores and on restaurant menus soon!

10. The Leaves Resemble Dinosaur Skin

Cavolo nero’s signature crinkly, dark green leaves have a prehistoric look to them. When the plants mature and reach their full size, their puckered appearance resembles dinosaur skin.

This unique texture gives cavolo nero another apt nickname: “dinosaur kale.”

11. It Goes By Many Other Names

In English, cavolo nero is most commonly referred to as Tuscan kale, lacinato kale, black kale, flat back kale, or dinosaur kale.

In Italian, aside from cavolo nero and lacinato, it may be called cavolo palmizio, which means “palm kale” referring to the palm-like shape of its leaves.


With its long history, superior nutrition, unique flavor, and prehistoric appearance, cavolo nero is clearly much more than just another kale variety. This Italian original packs an extra nutritious and tasty punch.

So next time you spot dinosaur kale at your local farmers market or grocery store, consider grabbing a bunch! Whether raw, sautéed, or braised, adding some cavolo nero can transform your meal into a veritable Tuscan feast.

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