Mum always knows best. She knew that kale was good for us kids, so she insisted that we at least try eating just a few bites. Mum’s policy didn’t go well with Betty and Marlene, my two younger sisters who absolutely hated kale. Eventually, after realizing they were not going to win their dinner time war, they pinched their noses and dutifully stomached their token two spoons of kale.
Like Brussel sprouts and asparagus, kale is a food that one needs to develop a taste for. I am sure that today Betty and Marlene eat kale like candy, thanks in part because they know kale is practically a super food. Kale is highly nutritious, rich in antioxidants, an excellent source of vitamin C and K, and can help lower cholesterol, thus reducing the chances of heart disease.
Kale is easy to grow in the home garden. Even if you don’t have a vegetable garden, there is little excuse not to grow kale. Kale’s lush green foliage and upright shape will look as attractive among flowering perennials and annual flowers as it does in the vegetable patch.
Two things to remember when growing kale: the time between planting and harvest is only 8 to 10 weeks, and kale is a cool season crop that does not enjoy summer heat.
To avoid kale growing in summer heat, plant it early, about 2 to 4 weeks before the frost free date. To get a head start, kale can be started indoors in April. Use a soilless growing medium and plant seeds in seeding trays, small pots or even egg cartons. Seeds will sprout in 10 days or so, and within a few weeks the small plants will be two or three inches high. For Lambton County, transplant the seeds into the garden in early May. Leaves will be ready for harvest in June.
Alternatively, kale can be sown directly into the soil in May. As soon as the seeds sprout and have 3 or 4 true leaves, carefully dig up the seedlings and space them about 12 to 18 inches apart. The kale will be ready to eat before the arrival of hot summer sun.
In late August or September plant another batch of seeds. In 8 or 10 weeks your second crop will be ready to harvest.
Smart kale growers know that the tastiest kale is picked after a solid frost. Winter of 2016 came early, but in the past we have harvested kale as late as Christmastime.
Many varieties of kale are available, all of which are equally nutritious and tasty. ‘Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch’ is tasty in salads, soups and stir-fries. This plant is most attractive and grows well in a container. Red Russian is a fast grower that can be picked 55 days after planting. Foliage looks like large dandelion leaves, with red stems.
Dinosaur kale or ‘Lacinato’ is a popular variety with crinkled blue-green leaves about 10 inches long. Young tender foliage can be picked as early as 5 weeks after planting, and mature foliage can be left until December. Use this kale in smoothies, salads, or the Dutch delicacy Boorenkool.