Black Italian cabbage has a thick central stalk and produces long, fat, spear-like leaves that have wrinkled, bubbled surfaces. The dark blue-green leaves will grow up to 46 centimeters long and 11 centimeters at their widest. Young leaves are harvested between 15 and 20 centimeters, when the stalks are still tender. As the leaves mature, they thicken, and stalks become tough. Black Italian cabbage offers a subtle peppery flavor with a tangy bite and sweet aftertaste.
Black Italian cabbage, or Tuscan kale, is an essential ingredient in the regional dish ribollita, or reboiled winter vegetable stew. It is also used in minestrone. Young, tender leaves are used raw in green or grain salads. They can be used as wrappers for cheese, shrimp or prawn, and risotto. Older leaves may need to have the ribs or central stalk removed due to toughness, otherwise, they require longer cooking time. The thick leaves can be sliced or chopped and used as a substitute for romaine in Cesar salad, braised, tossed into pasta dishes, soups, stews, egg dishes.
Store Black Italian cabbage in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Wrapping the bottoms of the stems in a wet cloth will keep them from drying out.