Kale is a cool-season leafy vegetable that resides in the Brassicaceae family (mustard family) along with cabbage, broccoli, and broccoli rabe. It’s a native to Asia Minor and the eastern Mediterranean, and the Greeks were growing several varieties by the 4th century BC. Kale became quite the world traveler and was a common vegetable in Europe until the end of the 15th century, and then it even found its way to Canada, via the USA by the 19th century.
Cultivating Colorful Kale
Not all the same variety of kale was, or is now, grown in all areas or for the same reason. Some varieties are wild and some are cultivated. Kale is often grown as a food source, but can also be grown as an ornamental. While many of us think of kale as a leafy green, it actually comes in a variety of colors, including green, but also blue, purple, red, and white.
To grow kale, it is best to plant either early spring or late summer, as this plant grows best before and after the heat of summer has had its go around. However, higher quality kale is usually produced from late summer plantings because kale quality is enhanced with a light frost and can continue to grow even after a light freeze. Harvesting of kale can continue until a severe freeze has set in.
Whether you choose to cultivate a spring or fall crop, sow your seeds in ½” deep rows, and as the seedlings emerge thin the kale to 12” apart. If you want to expand your crop, transplant the thinned seedlings into additional rows. Kale does prefer to be grown in sunny locations in well drained, but moist soils that are at a pH 5.5-7.0.
If you have opted to grow your kale for the intention of eating it, and not just for ornamental purposes, the kale will be ready for harvest around 70-80 days after planting from seeds. If you want your kale to continue growing, do NOT remove the apical meristem. Simply pick the lower leaves when they are small and tender (less than 10”).
Top Notch Nutrition
While growing kale for its unique beauty is all the reason you made need to cultivate kale, eating it will provide you with delicious and highly nutritious vegetable. Kale is often referred to as one of the healthiest foods in the world. Looking at its nutritional profile, we can definitely see why. One cup of chopped raw kale (67 grams) will provide you with 33 calories, 3 grams of protein, <1 gram fat, and 6 grams of carbohydrates (1 gram of which is dietary fiber). Kale is an amazing powerhouse of health as it provides 100% of the average person’s recommended daily need of Copper, Vitamins C and K, and is an excellent source of Vitamins A and B-6, and is a good source of Calcium and Magnesium. Kale provides small amounts of all the B Vitamins except B-12.
Adding kale to your diet to bump up your nutritional profile is easy to do. While kale can be eaten raw, and added to a salad, some varieties are a bit tough to chew and some people may consider kale to be bitter. You can incorporate kale into your next meal as a tasty side dish by sautéing it. Simply add the kale leaves, with the larger lower stem portion removed, to your frying pan and add in some olive oil, salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Cover with a lid and stir occasionally. Once the kale reaches desired tenderness, remove from heat and chow down (once it’s cooled a little)! Feeling a little more adventurous? Then try this fantastic frittata recipe!
Cheesy Kale Frittata
8 large eggs
2 T oregano
2 T thyme
1 T basil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 large tomato chopped
1 medium orange pepper chopped
2 cups chopped kale
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F
Lightly coat a 9×9 ovenproof pan with cooking spray
Place all the ingredients, except the cheddar cheese, into a large bowl
Whisk all of the ingredients in the bowl together
Pour mixture into prepared pan
Top with cheddar cheese
Place in oven and bake until set and heated through (20-30 minutes)
Once the mixture is set turn the oven to broil and broil until cheddar cheese bubbles and turns a light brown. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn
Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes
Slice, serve, and enjoy!
This frittata goes great topped with salsa or hot sauce! Feel free to add other herbs, or more or less of any of the veggies. Make it colorful, fun, and all your own!
Kale is a truly impressive and worldly vegetable. It works well as both a garden ornamental and as a food source. Whether you want to enjoy it as eye candy or as a mealtime delight, creating space in your garden will allow you to enjoy all the beauty and nutrition kale has to offer.
Andersen, C. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. Agriculture and Natural Resources. Home Gardening Series. Kale. FSA6069. https://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-6069.pdf
Choose My Plate.gov. US Department of Agriculture. SuperTracker. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/tools-supertracker
Natural Resource Conservation Service. US Department of Agriculture. Plant Database. Classification for Kingdom Plantae Down to Family Brassicaceae. https://plants.usda.gov/java/ClassificationServlet?source=display&classid=Brassicaceae