When I heard about it, kale was a runway heartthrob.
Packed full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and loaded with iron, Vitamin K and cardiovascular support: what else could you want in a vegetable? Lots of fiber, very little carbs, no fat.
So I grew some for two years before I knew what to do with it. Vegetable relationships require a warming up period, it seems, but now I’m truly, madly and absolutely in love.
It’s those common relationship mistakes that kept us apart so long.
Direct sowing doesn’t work so well here. Before kale plants are ready to harvest, bugs descend, and who wants to eat buggy greens? And by the time I thought they were big enough to eat, in the summer heat, the curly kale I grew was tough and bitter. Not all that attractive.
I started kale this spring in greenhouse flats about the same time as their cruciferous (brassica) cousins: cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens and brussels sprouts. Kale loved the cool start and thrived inter-planted with herbs and lettuce in early spring.
So I ate it early too. For breakfast. Everyday.
Juice one lemon (if you dare), add one organic banana, one ice cube and a handful of kale packed as close to the blade on your blender as possible. Add mint leaves for more of a punch if you like, and in-season berries or ground flax, but only enough water to process this slurry. Kale chips also thrill me.
I’m hooked. Red Russian Kale is my favorite, but curly kale works fine too. The secret is to keep going back for more. The more you harvest kale, the better looking your plants.
“I’m done my kale,” a friend told me some weeks ago, “It went all buggy.”
Precisely why you should harvest, water it and give it some love with fertilizer. Pick bottom (oldest) leaves first and prevent the bugs from colonizing by harvesting often, before the butterfly eggs hatch. They’re not hard to wash off this leafy vegetable either.
Even kale planted (devoured) for forage in a chick run grew back a few weeks after the chicks moved.
Winning the bug race can be hit and miss with cabbages and cauliflower. If the worms settle into the head, you’re not getting a nice vegetable. However, growing resilient kale means many opportunities for success and happy ever after.