GROW KALE- The Queen of the Greens
It’s almost September and we are frantically prepping our gardens for the “Cool Season” crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage and this month’s topic- Kale!
This nutritional powerhouse is extremely easy to grow and is relatively quick to harvest. Like all the members in the world of cole crops, Kale (also known as borecole-Dutch for farmer’s cabbage) thrives in soils that are rich in fertile organic matter. The soil should be kept moist but not overly wet and good drainage is a must.
Kale is a form of cabbage (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group), with green or purple leaves, in which the central leaves do not form a head. The Acephala group also includes spring greens and collard greens.
Kale was one of the most common vegetables in all of Europe until the end of the Middle Ages. Today, kale varieties may be differentiated by the low, intermediate or high length of stem with varying leaf types. During WWII, kale cultivation was encouraged because it was easy to grow and a great supplement to the normal diet due to rationing. Healthy stuff!!
Kales are classified by leaf type- curly leaved, plain leaved, Rape Kale, leaf and spear( a cross between curly leaved and plain leaved), and Cavolo nero (also known as black cabbage, Tuscan cabbage, Tuscan kale, Lacinato and dinosaur kale)
Many varieties of kale are grown for their ornamental leaves. Their brilliant white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet colors in the interior of the rosette, can add some pop to your edible garden landscape and are edible also.
We are currently growing three different types of kale in our organic gardens. Starbor is a variety of curly leaf kale. Toscano, an Italian heirloom type, is a lacinato or “dinosaur” kale. Red Russian kale is the other favorite here at Sunshine Care.
STARBOR is a 55 day variety that has finely curled, dark blue-green leaves and can be harvested with one cut instead of being stripped off the plant one leaf at a time, as kale is traditionally harvested. The compact plants produce leaves that are very uniform, resist yellowing, and are very flavorful. You can harvest the entire plant at 12”-18”. This variety fits in well with our program, grown in between our broccoli and cauliflower like we do with our lettuce. It also fills a planter box very nicely.
TOSCANO can be ready to harvest as “baby” in as little as 30 days or as mature leaves in about 65 days. It is a real “eye grabber” and resembles little black palm trees with leaves 2”-3” wide and over 12”inches long. The leaves have a blistered (savoyed)/crumply appearance. Its upright and open plant habit serves a dual purpose- very ornamental and extremely delicious. This variety is extremely popular in Tuscany and central Italy. It is very tolerant to hot and cold weather and actually can handle frosts very well. The colder it gets- the tastier is will be!
RED RUSSIAN can be ready to harvest in 25 days as “baby” and in 50 days when fully mature. The smooth red leaves are cut as baby leaf kale and for bunching. The stems are purple and the leaves are flat, toothed and dark green with purple veins. It’s another great addition to your edible landscape. The plants mature medium- tall (24”-36”) and the leaves are tender compared to other kales. To extend the storage life, dunk the leaves in cold water after harvest. The variety is delicious in salads or quickly sautéed.
If you can’t find six packs or 4” pots of these types of kale at your local home and garden supply center, like Grangetto’s here in San Diego County, check out Johnny’s Selected Seeds and order a packet of 100 seeds for $3.95.
Watch out for pests like the bragrada bug in late summer and aphids in the spring.
Give them a shot of your favorite organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, like Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1, occasionally to keep them green and growing in the cool weather. Super Easy!!!
Here are some reasons to add kale to your diet-
Kale is low in calories, high in fiber and has zero fat. One cup has only 36 calories and 5 grams of fiber.
Kale is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef.
Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. It helps fight arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.
Kale is great for your cardiovascular system by lowering cholesterol levels.
Kale is high in vitamin A to help your vision and skin and some ward off some cancers.
Kale is high in vitamin C which helps your immune system, metabolism and hydration.
Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids, again cancer fighters.
Kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk to help build strong bones.
Kale is a great detox food to keep your liver healthy.
Another great reason to eat kale, and one that is very relative for helping our residents here at Sunshine Care- Kale is high in Vitamin K where increased levels can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s (the number one affliction of all of our residents)
So grow the “new beef”, kale, and get healthy. Whether juiced, in smoothies, dehydrated for chips, as a spinach replacement or in soups, these two varieties of kale have a place for eye appeal in the garden and tummy appeal in the dining room.
If you are in the area, give me a call or shoot me an e-mail and I would be elated to show you around our gardens.
Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture for Sunshine Care, a Community of Assisted Living Homes
Check out our web-site to get a better feel for what we do and offer, www.sunshinecare.com and don’t forget our free monthly garden lectures on the third Saturday of the month at 10:30 am.