Kale Plant Spotlight: Tips and Tricks to Grow, Cook, and Eat Garden Fresh Kale

Your garden and kitchen guide to kale

Introductory Facts and Trivia

Kale is a relative of cabbage that is grown because of their edible leaves. It is similar in appearance to cabbage, and is sometimes referred to “wild cabbage,” possibly because of how some kale can reach a height of six or seven feet.

It originated around the Mediterranean as early as 2000 B.C. By the 19th century, Russian traders had introduced kale to the United States and Canada, and Americans actually used it more for decorative purposes such as a functional ornament. By the beginning of the 21st century, people began to eat kale because of its nutritional value.

Grow Your Own

Kale is theoretically quite easy to grow, and it will do wonders for your cooking sessions. You can begin to grow kale for a winter harvest, or you can begin earlier in the year. It might be a good idea to thin the seeds before planting them, because they are strong sprouters, and you want to give them space to grow. Giving the seedlings a sufficient amount of nitrogen is necessary. You should water them deeply and infrequently, but try to maintain a consistent moisture for the soil. After germination, you can harvest the leaves in two or three months. Remember to harvest the lower leaves when they reach around eight to ten inches in size. Normally, the smaller leaves are the most tender.

Cool weather will prevent pests and disease from the kale, but it is necessary to handpick worms that have stayed through the winter and use insecticidal soaps that won’t negatively affect the rest of your garden. The pests that go after broccoli and brussels sprouts will also go for kale, so keep that in mind. Remember, they are all a part of the same plant family (Brassicaceae).

Pick the kale the morning so that it does not wilt. Keep in mind, it wilts fast, you you need to be observant and keep track of the crop, or you might have to start all over again. Wash and store it in your refrigerator after you pick it, and it will be ready for cooking and eating whenever you choose.  

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Cooking Tips

Kale can be used for a number of main dishes during lunch and dinner, but it is also very tasty with breakfast. A recipe for Kale and Goat Cheese Frittata Cups from the Kitchn can give you an extremely satisfying breakfast meal to start off your day the right way. As simple as it is, they are just as delicious and filling until lunchtime. You can’t go wrong!

Nutrition and Health Benefits

Kale is one of the healthiest plants in the world, and its nutritional value helps the human body tremendously. It is a great source of vitamins such as A, C, E, and K. It also includes minerals that help with one’s overall diet, such as iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. However, boiling the kale might diminish these nutrients.

Kale is also high in fiber and water, and it contains antioxidants. These two factors may help in preventing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The high amount of potassium might also decrease the risk of heart disease.

As a bonus, it might also be helpful to maintain healthy skin and hair because it provides retinol, which enables body tissue to grow and stay healthy.

Learn more about plants and what to grow in your area with the Giving Garden app. Giving Garden helps you grow, share and eat food locally. Available on iOS, Android and the web.  Find your local farmers market, grow your own food and share food to strengthen your local food system. If you have extra produce, we encourage you to post it on our mobile apps and let your friends and neighbors know. Let’s combat food waste together! Have suggestions on features or need assistance, email support@givinggarden.io 

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This blog post was written by Sanjay Reddy, a Biological Science and Professional Writing intern at Giving Garden. Sanjay is very passionate about plant and environmental science and is experienced in scientific research and writing for various fields. Connect with him on LinkedIn to see his current projects.

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