The minute I set eyes on cavolo nero, it was love. The textured leaves of this vegetable were so interesting they drew me in and the greeny black colour just screamed of vitality boosting nourishment. My love hasn't died. Cavolo nero hails from Tuscany; it is a member of the kale family (but I prefer it to regular curly kale) and belongs in a cooking tradition which epitomises the message that the worlds healthiest food does not need to be complicated; just fresh, simple and made with love: the kind of Tuscan food you would get in a cosy little village trattoria. It is a perfect match cooked for a few minutes in steam, coupled with garlic, some chilli and extra virgin olive oil. I like to cook mine with a few chopped prunes and/or raisins too.
Trust your instincts when looking for fresh produce that will nourish and protect your health - colourful, springy vegetables which have not faded and gone limp can be one of the most important things you put into your body in abundant amounts. Look out for plant pigments of all colours; these offer the doorway into the world of antioxidants - plant based molecules which mop up unstable bi products of disease and metabolism known as free radicals. These free radicals are implicated in the pathogenesis of a wide range of diseases.
Cavolo nero is a rich source of precursors (glucosinolates) to isthiocyanides (antioxidants) which have been strongly shown to help prevent cancer and suppress existing tumour growth. They do this by helping to eliminate carcinogens from the body, reducing DNA damage and faciliating apoptosis (self destruction of cancer cells). But it is more than that...cavolo nero is also a wonderful source of iron, calcium, vitamins A, C, K.
Here's a nice recipe from good ole Martha: