Kale

We grow a lot of kale here. Because we consider ourselves homesteaders first and foremost, we don’t grow anything we don’t like ourselves. Fortunately, we love kale and so do our customers. It has become an important part of both our homesteading and our farm operation.

Kale is a cool weather crop, so we grow it in the spring and fall. In the spring we have a garden dedicated to brassicas, and kale shares the space with broccoli, cabbage and collards. In the fall we dedicate one garden to broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and another garden entirely to collards and kale.

We enjoy our spring kale and are usually able to get a good crop in, but as the weather warms and the flea beetles and harlequin bugs arrive, growing it becomes challenging. The fall is a much better time for kale. Like all cooking greens, kale tastes best after it has been kissed by frost. And there are few bugs and weeds to worry about. But that doesn’t mean we’re without challenges in the fall.

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A deer has been munching on this plant. Not nice.

We grow 3 types of kale: Siberian, Red Russian and Tuscan (aka Lacinato aka dinosaur).

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Siberian

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Red Russian

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Dinosaur

Here kale can be started in flats and transplanted, or it can be direct-seeded. We usually do some of both.

In the spring kale is one of the things we plant as soon as the gardens can be worked. That depends upon when the ground dries out and the dates can vary wildly from year to year. I aim to plant in early March, but sometimes it doesn’t happen till April.

The weather is more reliable in late summer so we can plan on planting in mid-August. Kale is a winter-hearty plant, so unless we have an unusually cold winter, we can pick it until deep in the winter, overwinter it, then resume picking it when springs rejuvenates it. Assuming, of course, that the deer don’t eat it first.

Kale is a versatile vegetable in the kitchen and it shows up in lots of different foods for us. Two simple ways to enjoy it are braised and in a kale-bean soup.

With luck we’ll continue to enjoy fresh kale all winter, then, with more luck, in a little over 2 months we’ll begin planting more.

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23 comments on “Kale

  1. Dani says:

    Bill – How do you cook / prepare kale? I purchased some flat leafed kale seedlings (similar in appearance to your Siberian kale pic) , but was disappointed as the kale leaves were very large and tough, and the plant grew to an enormous size – literally from the very first leaves. (Average size of leaf was 1 1/2 – 2 feet long X 1 foot wide) Is the toughness and leaf size normal?

    Liked by 1 person

    • valbjerke says:

      There are some ‘dwarf’ varieties you might try (scots blue curled comes to mind). I found the flat leaf varieties not my favorite – but am likely cooking them wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill says:

        We’ve grown Scotch curled and Vates, but Cherie prefers the flat leaves for cooking (I think because the curly leaves are more difficult to clean). Once cooked I don’t think I could tell the difference in taste.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      There are lots of ways to prepare kale. We eat it raw, but most often saute it in olive oil with garlic. Last night we had it with ginger and red pepper flakes. It’s great in a white bean soup. Sometimes I cook a pot of it with a chopped up onion and some peppers and eat it with vinegar (as I would do with turnip greens). Cherie uses in it lasagna, quiches, and other things. She’s the cook here so she’d be better able to answer the question.

      We grow dwarf Siberian. I’ve never seen it as large as you describe. We’ve sometimes had some large kale, especially in the spring, but what you’re describing seems larger than anything we’re accustomed to here.

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  2. valbjerke says:

    My favorite kales are redbor and winterbor – and fortunately It’s something that grows well up here. It survives several frosts and if I don’t get to it all, even snow. I also plant mine six inches apart – still get spectacular results. Very easy hardy plant 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I want to try winterbor, having heard good things about it, but for the last few years it’s been impossible to get seeds. The catalogs say there should be plenty this year so we’ll give it a try.

      I transplant at 12 inches apart and try to thin to that in direct-seeded rows (eating the thinnings), but it can end up quite close in those rows and still produce well. I’ve tried using a diamond pattern to get more plants in the row but didn’t like the results as much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • valbjerke says:

        We’ve the same issue up here for lack of seeds for kale. Matters little how early I order – seems everybody has jumped on the ‘superfood’ bandwagon and decided to grow kale.

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  3. Bob Braxton says:

    now that is some wonderful kale. The crinkly stuff from super-sized grocery market has a lot of thick stem(s). The small packet at another selling place – from a farm – in California (to Virginia, north) – looks much more like yours. A pity it flies from a drought-stricken Left coast.

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  4. BeeHappee says:

    I love the Red Russian. 🙂 Thanks for reminding about kale bean soup!

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    • Bill says:

      Kale bean soup is one of our favorites. Cherie uses white beans, but my attempt to grow them this year was a fail. So we substituted our “October beans” and the result was delicious. 🙂

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  5. Scott says:

    Nuts to think we are still waiting on winter and spring is right around the corner. Although we may get some winter this week…

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    • Bill says:

      It’s been cool and rainy here today, but yesterday the high was 77 (!!)–beating our old record by five degrees and over 30 degrees above normal! The forecast is for us to be back in the 70’s again tomorrow. As crazy as that is, I just read that the forecast is for above freezing temperatures at the North Pole this week, 70 degrees above normal.

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  6. EllaDee says:

    Kale is one of my breakfast veges, finely chopped and sautéed with turmeric (or other veges, herbs to hand) then add a couple of eggs.

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  7. I like the sound of Kale Bean soup. We will have to try that. It might go well in chop (my African dish) as well. Collards are one of my favorites there. –Curt

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  8. Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    I enjoyed our kale last spring, until the bugs took over. I planted some for fall, but our neighbor’s boy kept getting into the garden and in his abundant enthusiasm trampled most everything. After two attempts, I gave up. You need deer fencing, I need “neighbor-boy fencing”.

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    • Bill says:

      Having managed to survive all the other challenges, I can imagine it would be pretty frustrating to have it trampled down by a neighbor-boy. I thought we’d experienced it all, but obviously not. 🙂 Better luck this year!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We love kale too – especially tuscan kale. Caldo Verde is how we eat it most – linguica (spicy Portuguese sausage) sauté with onions and garlic and the kale, add chunked potatoes and chicken broth. Kale Caesar is also super tasty (kale, parmesan, lemon and Caesar dressing).
    We adore kale chips – cut leaves from the stems and slice into “chip” size, toss with olive oil and salt and toast in a hot oven until crisp. They taste amazing, but don’t keep very well so you need to eat them right away (never a problem for us!)

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