Saturday, February 18, 2006

Kindly Kale

Kindly Kale

776 words, Copyright Harvest McCampbell, 2006
Published 2/14/06 The Hoopa Valley People Newspaper, Posted here with permission

Kale is one of those gracious vegetables that we can grow year around here in the temperate regions of Northern California. It is highly adaptable. It can survive triple digit summer time temperatures as well as a fairly hard frost and a dusting of snow. In hot summer areas Kale benefits from ample moisture, a thick mulch, or afternoon shade. No special winter time protection is necessary. Kale will take all the rain, fog, and mist we can muster, as long as the ground doesn’t freeze.

There are a number of varieties to choose from. There are kales with curly frilly leaves, flat leaves, and savoy – or crinkled leaves. Kale comes in dwarf forms that barely get 10 inches tall, all the way to standard forms that can reach upwards of 3 – 4 feet when in bloom. Kale also comes in a variety of colors, from silver sheen, blue green, purple, to Red Russian Kale with its red stems and veins.

My favorite kale, so far, is Red Russian Kale. It has a mild nutty flavor, a few plants will provide all the kale most families will need, and it is very ornamental. It’s feathery blue green leaves with their striking red veins are as at home in a flowerbed as in the garden. Compared to frilly or savoy leafed varieties Red Russian Kale is easy to care for. The relatively flat leaves are easy to inspect and wash, in case of pests. Aphids, slugs, and cabbage worms sometimes bother kale. A goodly trickle from the hose while gently rubbing any infested leaves is usually all that’s needed to control the aphids and cabbage worms. Cabbage worms and slugs can be hand picked mornings and evenings. If all else fails, insecticidal soap can be purchased from your nursery or mail order supplier.

In the kitchen kale can be used all the ways that spinach, chard, and cabbage are used. Flat large leafed varieties can be employed as alternative wrappings for cabbage rolls. The cooked leaves from any variety can double for spinach in quiche and dips. They are equally at home in soups, stir-fries, or sautéed with garlic and onions. The young leaves make a crunchy, nutty, attractive addition to salads.

Kale is generally considered more nutritious than spinach, cabbage, and lettuce. It is a Brassica, which are what members of the cabbage family are called. Recently the Brassicas have been much in the news because of research that shows they are high in anti-cancer compounds. Kale is also high in vitamins A & C, and it contains considerable amounts of a number of minerals, B vitamins, protein, and other nutrients. Kale is considered a supper food! For complete information on kale’s nutritional benefits please see:

Kale is also easy to grow. Very soon six packs of several varieties of kale will be available at many nurseries and garden supply centers. Kale seed can also be found in many catalogs and at seed counters. While kale can be started at any time of year, spring is perfect. Kale plants started in spring will begin to offer a few leaves at a time through the warm months and by fall they will be in full swing. Consider your garden plot carefully before planting kale, as it lives and produces for two years.

Near the end of kale’s life span it begins to bolt. Those immature flower stalks are delicious. You can graze on them right in the garden, or use them raw or cooked. The more you cut the more the plant will produce – so cut as many as you like. The bright yellow flowers are also edible, as are the immature seedpods. Kale is a truly versatile vegetable.

To save your own seed, you only need to let a few stalks mature. Each pod will contain 5 or more seeds. And each stalk will have 5 – 10 pods, so you will have plenty to share with friends. Just wait for the pods and stalks to be crisp-dry before picking them. It is possible for kale to cross with other cabbage family plants, so keep this in mind if you want to save your own seed. Brassica seeds keep for a few years, so it is possible to stagger the flowering times of your various crops to keep the lines relatively pure.

If you find you enjoy kale as much as I do, you will want to start a few plants each year. That way you won’t ever be without this easy, versatile vegetable. If your nursery doesn’t have starts or seeds they can be ordered from the following companies:

776 words, Copyright - Harvest McCampbell, 2006
Published 2/14/06 The Hoopa Valley People Newspaper. Posted here with permission.

Other gardening articles from the Hoopa Valley People Newspaper:

First Flowers for the Season, February 7, 2006

Florence Fennel, January 31, 2006

Cilantro, January 17, 2006


njmastergardener said...

This is a very nice article Harvest. I really enjoyed it. I stop by seedswappers site, but not often enough. Thanks for sharing your writing with us.
Forever Flowering,

Anonymous said...

Nice article, thanks for the info! I <3 kale

Anonymous said...

Very Informative. Exactly the information I was looking for. Bravo to you

The Our Calories Family said...

very informative!!! now i know why i didn't get kale seed this year.

Harvest said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your comments! You can also find me on facebook under Harvest McCampbell. There are lots of garden photos in my albums . . .

Julie said...

I just picked my first bunch of red russian baby leaves and made a salad with some fresh goat cheese and golden rasins and pecans, drizzled with a tiny bit of honey and lemon juice with a pinch of pepper--it was incredible!

Garden seeds said...

Thanks for the post mate you have written it very well.