Grow at Home: Kale

kale_grown_plants_rowKale is one of the easier to grow brassicas as it does not need full sun, tolerates cold weather quite well and is relatively free from pests and diseases.

It is also highly nutritious and full of green goodness.  In times gone by it was used to feed cattle during the winter but now, cooked in the right way, it makes a delicious addition to your plate.  You can also eat the small leaves in a salad if you pick them when they are young and tender.

Sowing Kale

Indoor

Sow seeds from March to May ½” (1cm) deep in 4"-5" (10-12cm) Pots in the greenhouse or on a windowsill.  When the seedlings appear prick out the weakest leaving only 1 strong plant per pot. Transplant the seedlings to their final positions from May onwards when they are about 3-6” (6-12cm) tall.

Outdoor

Or sow direct into the seedbed from April to August ½” (1cm) deep in rows 1'-2' (30cm-60cm) apart.

Planting Out & Growing

kale_close_UpWhen the plants are 6" (6-12cm) tall, and have 5 or 6 true leaves, plant them out placing the lower leaves at ground level.  Water well both before and after planting and mulch to retain moisture for best results.

If you intend to eat fully grown kale, plant out in rows 2’ (60cm) apart.  But to eat earlier, when the leaves are younger and more tender, make the rows 1’ (30cm) apart.
Cover with a Lantern Cloches or an Easy Poly Tunnel to protect them from weather and pests.

Harvest

Harvest the crop from November to April cutting the leaves off as you need them.  Sometimes they can grow again after they have been cut.

Store in a cool place and they will last for about 10 days. Or blanch, cut up, place in a freezer bag and then put in the deep freezer.

Eating

Many people want to like Kale but find they just don't and this could be because they are not preparing it right.  So here are 3 top tips for making your Kale more lovable.

  • Remove the stems - the stems of kale are bitter, chewy and frankly not very nice.  So fold the leaves in half and slice out that stem before preparing.
  • Tenderise a little - the leaves are also tough so you need to massage them to break down some of those tough cell walls before you eat.  Just a couple of minutes of handling will make it far more palatable.
  • If you are using it for a salad rather than cooking then use an acidic dressing -including something like cider or balsamic vinegar.  This will help to break it down and soften it to make it nicer to eat.

Pests

Watch out for slugs when the plants are small and for caterpillars and aphid later on. Birds can also be a problem finding both the seedlings and the buds tasty.
Prevention is always better than cure though.  So using cloches and tunnels to cover the plants is advisable.  Then it should be a small job to pinch off any pests that get through your defenses.

Another good idea is to plant nasturtiums nearby as they attract white butterflies and keep them off your kale and other brassicas.

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