The sign outside the organic shop advertised a delivery of kale; unusual, since the vegetable is relatively hard to find in Hong Kong. We have come to call Chinese kai lan kale, but these bunches of green leaves are rougher in texture, softly furling at the edges with thinner stems than their Chinese cousins. Both are classed as cruciferous vegetables. They come from the same family branch of classification and are related to broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, cabbage, bak choi and even wasabi. Indeed, most of these veggies carry at least a hint of a bitter tang, which is reminiscent of wasabi's nostril-cleansing strength. Cruciferous vegetables are extremely important to a healthy diet, being high in vitamins, antioxidants and beta-carotene, and kale is a winner when it comes to nutrient levels. Rich in vitamins D and K, website Discoverkale.co.uk also says that the green leaves pack 17 times the amount of vitamin C found in carrots and seven more times the amount of carotene in cabbage. A great source of non-dairy calcium easily absorbed by the body, it's a choice for those who are lactose intolerant or do not like dairy. Kale is known for its abilities to ward off cancers, says Benita Perch, a naturopathic doctor with the Holistic Central Medical Practice. Research shows that phytonutrients such as sulforaphane, evident in kale, can prevent cancer. Qualities in kale also help the body detoxify bad types of oestrogen and help create good oestrogen, which helps fight female problems such as breast cancer. And because kale is high in fibre, it can help bind cholesterol in the gut so the body does not absorb it. Eating cruciferous vegetables as a part of your daily intake will have a positive impact on your overall health. 'You should be looking at a minimum of four servings of vegetables,' says Perch. 'At least three of these servings should be cruciferous.' She recommends raising this level to five to nine servings of vegetables with at least three cruciferous options for anyone with a history of cancer. Her recommendation is to start the day with a dose of kale, via a smoothie. Remove stems and add a bunch of the leaves along with high-antioxidant berries, juice, and some protein powder or flax seeds. 'It's pure nutrient. Berries and kale are a great start to the day,' says Perch. She isn't the only one singing the praises of kale. Shyam Narayanan is a yoga instructor with Pure Yoga and a vegetarian. He says it's a vegetable brimming with prana, which yogic tradition says gives life force and acts as a building block for the mind. 'It is the energy behind all mental activities. Since the body will become an inanimate object without the mind, prana is essential to both. A good supply of prana for the mind means a stress-free, powerful, positive and peaceful mind,' he says. Eating healthy vegetables such as kale helps keep the mind positive and focused, he says. 'It boosts vitality and enhances creativity.' Narayanan enjoys kale lightly steamed with ginger. Steaming is the best way to maintain the high levels of nutrients available. In the southern states of the US, where collard greens are popular, the leaves are prepared by adding oil and bacon, for a comforting recipe that works just as well with kale. In Ireland, both cabbage and kale is mashed with potatoes to make the dish colcannon, a hearty winter classic. It can also be shredded and saut?ed with a dash of olive and garlic in the pan. Kale, like kai lan, can have a bitter tone. To help eradicate this, sprinkle vinegar, which also helps preserve the calcium and vitamins, plunge in water and soak for a few minutes, advises Andrew Lam, a founder of Providence Family Farms, which grows organic produce in Jiangxi province and delivers all over Hong Kong. He also says pairing shredded kale with other mixed leaves in a salad helps to draw out sweetness in lettuce and other ingredients. Are you now convinced of the benefits of kale and wanting to rush out and try it? It may take some searching. In Hong Kong, few supermarkets seem to carry kale, but Providence Farms says it has both kale and kai lan coming into season and is ready to deliver. Otherwise, a hunt of farmers' markets and independent health food shops may prove fruitful. Just Green, an organic shop on Graham Street in Central, stocks kale chips made by Lydia's Organics, and this is one nutritious snack option, delivering benefits of fresh kale without any cooking. If in doubt, kai lan does share many of the nutrients, and most of the recipes above work with the Chinese leaf. Kai lan, of course, is available in any market or supermarket, but if you can find the other kale, go ahead and grab a bunch.