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How to Grow and Learn to Love KALE!



Many have a love/hate relationship with broccoli and Brussels sprouts but kale comes close in the poor popularity stakes...

There are many forms of kale and it is part of brassica family in the same way as cabbages, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are.

What are the different types of kale?

There is no head in a kale plant so they are usually known by their leaf type:

  • There is the plain flat leaf type such as cow kale, thousand head kale, white and red Russian kales and the closely related Siberian kale. 
  • There are the curly kales.  These come in various colours from vivid green to deep purple/reds with one of the best known being Scotch kale which tends to be shorter than some of the other varieties and is biennial (meaning it grows and can be harvested over two seasons or more).   These compact, prolific kale plants have superior cold-tolerance. 
  • There are also knobbly leafed kale varieties which include the Lacinato kales such as Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale and Italian kale. Tuscan kale is most likely to grow several feet tall – eventually looking like a mini palm tree. The flattened leaves are ideal for making kale chips. 
  • There are Asian Kales that include Chinese Kale.
  • Ornamental kale should be considered as more of a decorative plant than an edible.
  • With its amusing name, there is the Walking Stick Kale which is a very vigorous biennial forming a very tall, straight stem that is topped with a rosette of large, oval, edible, blue-green leaves.

  • Portuguese Kale hails from the Mediterranean with large, wide, flat paddle-like leaves with thick white veins and is more heat tolerant than other varieties.
  • Last on the list are the perennial kales which are thought to be the oldest kales still in cultivation thought not common because they rarely flower (so are of little interest to seed companies) and are grown from cuttings. 

How to grow kale

You can grow kale by sowing seeds directly outdoors, or by planting seedlings – either nursery seedlings, or ones you start indoors yourself. The exact time to plant kale depends on your climate, and if you’re starting with seeds or seedlings.

Here is a link which will tell you everything you need to know about growing kale in your vegetable garden.  

How to harvest kale

Kale is the perfect cut and come again crop.  With annual kales, wait until they are a good size for the variety and then take a few lower leaves from each plant. Once they’ve reached full height, consider taking the center out as this encourages side shoot growth and helps the plant bulk up.

The perennial kales are even easier as you can just pull off the side shoots as they get larger.  And each time you do, they tend to branch and one is eventually replaced with two.  If they get too hight, it is suggested reducing perennial kales in size so that they they re-shoot with succulent new growth.

How to include kale in your diet

  • Baby kale can be cropped all year and can be eaten raw in salads while larger leaves can be cut into ribbons and sprinkled into your salad.
    Kale has a rough texture and slightly bitter taste, which helps balance some of the sweeter ingredients in a salad.
  • Put kale in soup to add green to your meal. Being more robust, kale doesn’t fall apart when it’s in soup, keeping its sturdy texture and adding crunch to the meal. Simply cut the kale into ribbons and submerge them in the soup.
  • Mix kale into pasta to add texture to the dish. Chop up two to three leaves of kale and add to pasta dishes, mixing it in before serving. Just as in soups, kale will not wilt or lose its texture when it’s submerged in pasta.
  • Use kale instead of lettuce for a sandwich or burger.  A non-curly type of kale works best for this, such as baby kale or Red Russian. Cut a kale leaf in half so that it fits in your sandwich or burger. If you want to add even more flavor to your food, sauté the kale before putting it in the sandwich or burger.  
  • Put fruits and vegetables on a kale leaf to make a kale wrap. Take four to five leaves of raw kale and lay them flat on a plate. Then, add your favorite sandwich or taco ingredients.  A suggestion is to fill the kale with cherry tomatoes, chopped mangos, bell peppers and raspberries for a healthy, delicious meal.  Dinosaur kale is ideal as a taco shell substitute.
  • Boil kale to make it soft and easier to chew. Kale is a tough green, and many people have a difficult time chewing and eating raw kale. To get it soft, silky, and easy to consume, fill a pot halfway to the top with water and bring it to a boil. Once the water is bubbling, place the kale in the pot and let the leaves sit in the water for five to ten minutes. Sprinkle some salt into the water to add a little bit of flavor.
  • Bake the kale to make crispy chips. This is a simple, easy and healthy snack.  Place leaves on a flat tray and cover with foil.  Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of salt onto the kale before baking in the oven at 350 °F (177 °C) for ten to fifteen minutes.
  • Blend kale to create a healthy and delicious smoothie. Taking just five minutes, you will need several chopped kale, two parts liquid and one part fruit chopped into small pieces.  Put all the ingredients into a blender and puree for five minutes.  Serve the smoothie over ice to get a cool, refreshing beverage.
  • Sauté kale to make it a side dish full of flavor. Chop about ten leaves of kale into one inch strips.  Put a pan on the stove on medium heat and place a pat of butter or a teaspoon of olive oil in the pan before adding the kale strips. Turn the leaves in the pan frequently until the kale is fully wilted before sprinkling half a cup of feta cheese onto the leaves and serve hot.
  • Steam kale to make a healthy side dish for your meals. Remove the  rib running down the middle of each leaf. To do this, fold the leaves in half one at a time and rip the leaves off the rib. Then, chop the leaves into one inch thick slices. Fill a pot with one tablespoon of olive oil and set the stovetop to medium. Sauté the leaves in the oil until they’ve wilted. Cut up three cloves of garlic, add them to the pot, and cook for another minute.  Pour over 3/4 cup of water, two teaspoons of salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes and bring to the boil before turning the heat off.  Cover the pop and let the kale sit for twenty to twenty five minutes so it tenderizes before removing from the heat.

Now that you are learning to love kale, what are the health benefits!

Here are the top ten of those benefits:

1.  Helps with digestion.

2.  Rich in iron.

3.  High in Vitamin K.

4.  Comes with powerful antioxidants.

5.  Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food.

6.  Provides good cardiovascular support.

7.  High in Vitamin A.

8.  Rich in Vitamin C.

9.  Also high in calcium.

10. Promotes liver health.



Effect of foliar and soil application of plant growth promoting bacteria on kale production and quality characteristics - ScienceDirect

Appendix E-3.6 | health.gov

 A novel putative 2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenase gene (BoaAOP-like) regulates aliphatic glucosinolate biosynthesis in Chinese kale - ScienceDirect