Almighty Kale

After years of being the vegetable no one knew what to do with kale has finally made its way to America’s kitchens. The recognition of its incredible health benefits has given cooks reason to find ways to prepare kale and as it turns out those preparations are plentiful.

You can add kale to soups, toss it with pasta or mix it into a frittata. You can make kale chips by baking the leaves in the oven. Or simply serve it sautéedwith a little vinaigrette, apples and nuts.

When you include kale in your diet you’ll get a load of iron, vitamins A and C, and calcium. It also contains beta carotene, antioxidants, potassium and fiber.

This nutritious green is readily available at farmer’s markets in spring and fall, but kale is so easy to grow you can have a supply right outside your kitchen door.

There are two common edible types of kale – curly and dinosaur (aka Lacinato). Because of the attractive foliage, either will serve double duty as an edible and ornamental. I like to plant kale in a container with winter annuals such as pansies and violas. For a splash of purple check out ‘Redbor’. Flowering kales, called so because they are so showy, are also available. These types are pretty in the garden, but the bitter flavor makes them inedible.

Dwarf Blue Curled Vates Kale

You can plant kale in early spring, about 3 to 5 weeks before the last frost date or 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost date in fall. Fall planting is ideal because the plants will mature as the weather cools, which makes the flavor extra sweet. If you live in a climate where winter temperatures stay above 20 degrees F you’ll be able to grow kale into spring. Use a frost blanket during times of severe cold.

Ornamental kale arranged with ivy, licorice plant, liriope and variegate euonymous.

Similar to collards very fertile soil is ideal to encourage rapid growth and tender leaves. Work nitrogen-rich amendments such as blood meal, cottonseed meal, or composted manure into the ground before planting. For fast growth and lots of tender leaves use a liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks.

Kale reaches full size in 60 days, but you can harvest any time the leaves are big enough to eat. Cut outer leaves so that center can continue growing.