Kale is the ideal crop for both beginning gardeners and seasoned growers alike, thanks to the fact that it grows quickly, performs well in both garden beds and containers, and it’s exceptionally hardy.
Kale – Packed With Powerful Nutrients
In the last few years, more and more health experts have crowned kale a superfood as it is packed with anti-inflammatory compounds, cancer-fighting antioxidants, and even folate, a critical nutrient for the prevention of birth defects.
At a mere 36 calories, O grams of fat, 3 grams of protein and an impressive 5 grams of fiber per one cup serving, it’s one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables you can grow. Kale is also packed with health boosting vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like lutein – a naturally-occurring compound that has been shown to help improve eye health. Researchers have shown that eating steamed kale lowers levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while boosting HDL (good) cholesterol.
Kale can be eaten raw or cooked, and one cup of cooked kale contains nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A, and over 70 percent of Vitamin C. Some of the more popular uses for kale includes blending the raw leaves into a green smoothie, baking up a batch of kale chips, or even substituting kale for romaine lettuce in a Caesar salad.
Types of Kale
There are three main types of kale available to gardeners today, and each type has it’s own unique appearance and taste.
Black Kale, also called Tuscan or Dinosaur Kale, has long, relatively flat leaves that are dark green in color. This is the type of kale is used most often in traditional Italian cooking, and it’s exceptionally easy to grow. Black kale is ideal for making kale chips, or for use in a soup.
Red Kale, also known as Red Russian Kale, has large, frilly leaves with red, pink, or purple stems. This variety is often used for ornamental plants and to garnish platters, however, it can be safely eaten as well (although it tends to be tough and have a strong cabbage flavor).
Curly Kale, also called Scotch Kale or simply Green Kale is often used as a substitute for lettuces in salads. It grows quickly in tight, compact bunches, and when harvested early, the white stems can be quite tender and even slightly sweet.
Growing Kale Year Round
Kale is a member of the cabbage family, which means that kale plants tend to thrive during colder weather in the spring and the fall. In most areas, kale can be harvested twice a year – it goes dormant when the weather gets either too hot, or too cold.
Whether you have a small container garden, raised garden beds, or a large in-ground planting area, it’s a good idea to sprout your kale seeds then transplant the seedlings. Take care to give your kale plants lots of room to grow. Watering frequently when they’re young will help to produce tender, sweeter kale.
Be sure to monitor for pests like cabbageworms, cutworms, and cabbage loopers. While kale is relatively resistant to pests, keeping your crop well-fertilized can help cut the chances of an infestation.
Kale is among the easiest, most nutritious plants you can grow, so why not try some kale in your garden this year?