I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing green growing where I live. Our garden has been brown and dry for awhile now, and I’m already dreaming of spring greens. Even though my visions are just wishful thinking, if you live in the right climate, there’s one vegetable that might just see you through the winter. It’s kale! Keep reading to to learn about how you can grow your own nutrient packed kale greens.
Kale has been around for sometime, albeit not as we know it today. We’ve been eating kale for the last 4,000 years or so. This leafy green likely originated in ancient Greece. Before long, it caught on in The United Kingdom where it was embraced as a hardship food that was high in nutrients and hardy enough to make it through the winter. Most homes had a kale garden close to the kitchen. Teens would even pull up the plant by the root to predict their future love! These greens made it to the United States in the 19th century, and that’s when things went quiet for awhile. People still grew and ate kale, but cabbage was becoming a more popular green. It wasn’t until WWII, when victory gardeners were encouraged to grow the plant, that people remembered all the tasty green had to offer. Now, kale is having a heyday. You’ll find in salads, soups, smoothies, and even made into chips.
You can plant and grow kale in both the spring and fall, though the fall plants tend to be a bit sweeter because of the winter frost. (That’s right; the greens taste better with a little winter!) Start your seeds indoors and then to plant in the spring, plant starts 3-5 weeks before the last frost. In fall, you’ll want to transplant starts to the garden 6-8 weeks before the first frost. Plants should be planted 18-24 inches apart, because they will get very large. Kale will keep growing into the winter in Zones 8-10. Be sure to choose a place with lots of sun. Kale loves full sun, but will do well in partial shade as well. Kale is a heavy feeder, and will do well in nutrient rich soil. Also, kale needs a plenty of water, so be sure to keep soil moist.
Pests and Diseases
This green is very hardy, but there are a few insects that love to chow down on kale. Green cabbage worms will sometime munch on kale, though they usually prefer other plants in the Brassica family. When you see them, pick them off and dispose of them. Young plants can sometime be prey for grasshoppers, but this can be cured by covering them with lightweight fabric. The last insect to watch out for are cabbage aphids. Look for small grayish insects that cluster in the folds of the leaves. Pull off leaves that host a large clusters of the plants and treat smaller infestations with insecticidal soap.
As mentioned earlier, kale is tastiest if picked after a light frost. The smaller leaves will be most tender for salads and the large leaves are great for steaming and boiling. Make sure to discard any old, yellow leaves. As long as you leave a few leaves at the top, you can pick as many as you like and the plant will regrow. Store leaves loosely in the refrigerator, and they’ll keep for several days.
You have lots of options with kale. Strip the leaves from the stalk my hand or with one of these handy devices, and then it’s ready to cook. You can steam or boil the leaves until tender, or add the young, fresh leaves to smoothies or salads. I like to make green chips out of my harvests. Toss the leaves in olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and keep an eye on them as they roast in an a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven until crunchy.