Plants in the cabbage family (Brassicas) top the charts as super foods and kale is at the peak. Bite for bite, kale packs in more nutrients and health benefits than just about any other plant you can eat. And it’s one of the easiest to grow, too!
Adding kale to your diet may reduce inflammation, lower the risk of cancer, lower blood pressure, improve blood glucose control in diabetics, improve bone, liver and eye health. High in vitamins A, C, K and folate, kale also contains more calcium than milk and nearly 3 grams of protein per cup.
Colorful, deeply textured, ornamental leaves are beautiful additions to containers and mixed flower beds as well as vegetable gardens. Some varieties have cool blue-green leaves, others are infused with purple. Leaves maybe smooth, ruffled or tightly crinkled.
In spring, start seeds indoors in planting trays about 4 weeks before your last expected spring frost date. Transplant seedlings into the garden after the last frost after acclimating them to outdoor conditions. You can also sow seeds directly into the garden around the last frost date. Plant seeds ¼” to ½” deep, 1″ apart in rows spaced 2′ apart. Thin the plants to 8” to 10” apart, then 24″ as they grow. Eat the thinnings!
Cover plants with lightweight row cover fabric to protect them from flea beetles and cabbage moths. Kale leaves are sweeter in cool weather and plants are frost hardy. For a fall crop, plant seeds directly in the garden about 2 months before the first expected fall frost.
Harvest & Keeping
Begin harvesting the outer leaves when plants are about 4 to 6 weeks old, depending on variety, when leaves are still tender. Large leaves become tougher as they mature. Use young, tender leaves with small midribs whole or chopped. Remove the midrib of larger leaves. Chop leaves and use fresh in salads, green smoothie drinks, roast to make kale chips, or add to soup, stew, stir fries and casseroles.