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Growing Kale--Queen of Garden Greens

Updated on January 7, 2023
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Cygnet Brown is a high school and middle school substitute teacher. She is the author of fourteen books and a long-time gardener.

kale is not only nutritious, but a pretty addition to the garden.
kale is not only nutritious, but a pretty addition to the garden. | Source

When I was a child, I had never heard of kale, however, today I love 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 for providing significant health benefits, including lowering cancer risks and lowering 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 the 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 Vegetable 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

Plant kale in your own backyard garden, and in just a few weeks, you will have access to kale at its peak 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 the area in the garden bed in which you plan to plant kale by removing all weed residue and placing it in your compost pile and then work a finished compost into the top two inches of the soil. Rake the soil until you have a smooth surface. To broadcast the seed, simply toss the seed evenly over the planting bed and then rake over the seeds to cover them with soil. Water the 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. However, if kale does get insect damage, lightly dust it 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 a 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 tablespoons of 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 the kale is crispy and turning brown.

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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Cygnet Brown


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