Kale is considered a highly nutritious green and one of the best food vegetables for maintaining good health. Kale contains more calcium, iron and vitamins A & C than any other vegetable greens. Being a cold weather crop, Kale will lose its’ quality faster in hot weather so we recommend starting Kale in late summer for winter harvesting. The reason for this is because Kale is the heartiest of all the greens and will survive temperatures of up to minus 10 below Fahrenheit giving you the option of harvesting the leaves throughout winter months. Actually frost will enhance the flavour and like carrots, the starch will convert to sugar producing a sweeter taste in the colder weather.
Another reason to start Kale later in the season is because of the supply of other garden greens such as lettuce, spinach and arugula that you may have in your garden. Although Kale can withstand colder temperatures and even snow, we still like to cover with a mini poly-tunnel row cover and this will also keep predators helping themselves to this crop. Kale can also create an attractive flower border with its’ texture, taste and colour combinations. When planting Kale, your soil should have moderate amounts of organic matter with lots of nitrogen and a pH of about 6.5. Kale can be direct sown or as a grow plug for transplanting. Kale is a member of the brassica botanical family and is a biennial crop which will sprout another growth in the spring prior to it going to seed. You can pick the immature flower blossoms or leave them to attract beneficial insects and pollinators for good habitat practices which will prey upon pests such as aphids.
If you maintain good crop rotation and soil practices, you should avoid any mildew diseases they may inherit.
When harvesting Kale, pick the outside leaves leaving the developing centre leaves to sustain production. Kale leaves are at their best for eating as soon as they are harvested. Steaming the leaves will maintain valuable vitamins and minerals and will keep their tenderness and colour. A cup of Kale has more vitamin C than a glass of orange juice, as much calcium as a glass of milk and more potassium than a single banana. No wonder they call it the super food!