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Growing Kale--Queen of Garden Greens

Updated on January 20, 2018
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Donna, AKA Cygnet Brown is a recent honors graduate of Argosy University. She is an author of four books and a long time gardener.

When I was a child, I had never heard of kale, however, today I love this this member of the cabbage family. It is growing in popularity for obvious reasons. Kale is a truly amazing vegetable. It is recognized for its exceptional nutrient richness, health benefits, and delicious flavor. kale is one of the most healthful vegetables on the planet. kale is a leafy green that is available in curly, ornamental, or dinosaur varieties. It is a member of the Brassica family. Plant relatives include cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

At a Glance: Growing Kale

Plant in early spring or during the autumn months for best results.

Planting Depth: 1/2 inch deep

Planting distance: plants 2 inches apart

Germination: 5-10 days

Time until Harvest: 50-75 days

Autumn plantings produce sweeter kale than spring planted kale.

Kale's Nutritional Value is Unsurpassed

Eating a variety of natural, unprocessed vegetables can do wonders for your health, Kale tops the list at providing significant health benefits, including lowering cancer risks and lowered the LDL cholesterol levels

Chopped kale is a dieter's dream food. One cup of chopped kale contains only 33 calories. Nutritionally it provides 9% of the daily requirement of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and 684% of vitamin K. Studies have shown that vitamin K prevents cancer. It also acts as an antioxidant and helps in bone health. Anyone on blood thinners such as warfarin should avoid eating kale because the vitamin K content also reduces the body's clotting ability. Kale also is a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. In addition to the vitamins and minerals, kale contains fiber that binds to bile acids which lower blood cholesterol levels thereby reducing risk of heart disease. Kale also contains oxalates which help the body absorb calcium. These health benefits of kale are increased when eaten cooked rather than raw.

Kale, A Great Choice for the Fall Garden

Although kale can be grown in the spring, fall is the best time to plant kale. During the cooler autumn months when fewer vegetables are growing in the garden, kale and other dark leafy greens are the garden's powerhouse. Autumn frosts sweeten the flavor of kale.

Kale does well when broadcasted around older cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or potatoes. It does well if it follows early bush beans or peas. Kale will continue to produce until heavy freeze.

Growing Kale in The Backyard

By planting in your own backyard garden, in just a few weeks, you will have access to kale at its peak of nutritional value. Plant kale about six weeks before the first frost date in the fall or as early in the spring as you are able to work the soil in the spring. Kale does well when planted using a method called "broadcasting". Prepare area in the garden bed in which you plan to plant kale by removing all weed residue to the compost pile and then working finished compost into top two inches of the soil. Rake the soil smooth. To broadcast the seed, simply toss seed evenly over the planting bed and then rake over seeds to cover with soil. Water entire area well every day until the kale has germinated.

Once germinated, thin kale to 2 inches apart in every direction. Thinned kale greens are good in salads. Mulch plants to control weeds.

Although kale is as susceptible to the same pests as other members of the cabbage family, kale usually isn't affected by insect pests when they are planted in the fall. If however, if kale does get insect damage, lightly dust with wood ashes or DE (diatomaceous earth).

The only problem I ever faced when growing kale was after killing frost left other garden vegetables are gone and the goats jumped the fence to savor the greens. Goats know good food when they see it!

How to Harvest, Use, and Cook Kale

Harvest the outer leaves of kale as needed. Young tender leaves can be eaten in salads. Older leaves are better if eaten cooked.

Sauté kale by heating two tablespoons of olive oil. Add two garlic cloves and cook until soft. Add one pound of kale and one half cup of water or vegetable stock. Cover and cook on medium heat for five minutes. Remove cover and cook until liquid has evaporated. Add two table spoons of wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Make Your Own Kale Chips

A delicious way to get the nutrition that kale provides is to turn them into snacking chips. Making kale chips is easy. Rinse kale in colander and place kale onto paper towels to dry. Pat dry with additional paper towels. Place dried kale in a large bowl and toss with two table spoons olive oil until all the kale is coated with the olive oil. Add about two teaspoons of sea salt and spread kale in a single layer onto cookie sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until kale is crispy and turning brown.

For a slightly different taste, sprinkle chips with parmesian cheese or Italian seasoning.

© 2014 Cygnet Brown


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    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 4 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      Hi annart,

      I have been eating a lot more kale than I used to. I find that the flavor grows on me.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

      I've heard lots about kale recently but rarely eat it, though it is in our shops more often now. I'll have to try it!

      Great hub, full of useful info. Ann

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 4 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      Thanks Bill, In some parts of the country, kale is a weed along with mustard greens. When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, morning glories were a noxious weed. According to certain practitioners of permaculture, weeds fill a niche which improves soil conditions.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is one plant we have no problem growing. It re-seeds itself and grows wild in our yard...and grows...and grows. LOL

      Have a great Sunday Donna!