My Super Kale
Updated: Jan 31
Kale is not only a super leafy green but also a super crop for the backyard garden!
If you grow food in a cool climate region where winter backyards get frosty but not dormant under thick snow, you probably have kale all year long in your veggie garden. I love all varieties of kale, but the one I get the most successful yield in my garden is the Red Russian Kale. I can’t really explain why, it’s just the “super” one! They are not really red, they have a purple stem and blue-green oak shaped leaves (which turn purple-ish in cooler temperatures). Compared to the curled varieties, the leaves are not as compact so there are less little hiding spots for bugs to nest, which makes them less prone to pest attacks and are easier to wash. Red Russian kale is an heirloom variety with an earthy flavour suppling rich healthy nutrients.
Kale from the garden • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-20
Kale is the most nutritious leafy green ever! It is packed with vitamins, nutrients, minerals and antioxidants. Part of the brassica family (cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, etc.), kale comes in many different types like curly leaf (in blue or purple), flat leaf (Red Russian) and bumpy (Tuscan). It can be used like spinach and is great in many dishes like pastas, pizzas, pastry rolls, cured meats, quiches, soups, smoothies, and even desserts. Baby leaves make fabulous green pesto and salads. Mature leaves are best without the hard stem and cooked. The curled varieties make amazing chips slightly baked with vegetable oil and spices. My mother-in-law is native to the Netherlands and introduced me to a delicious traditional dish called "boerenkoolstamppot", which is mashed potatoes mixed with curly kale, served with "rookworst" smoked sausages. I use any variety of kale as side veggies with meat. A quick lunch I really love sometimes during kale season is an egg "poelée" (pan fry) with kale and potatoes, sprinkled with cheese and spring onions.
Home cooking with kale • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018-19
GROWING & COOKING TIPS
Growing kale is quite easy. The only little things to really be aware of are pests like cabbage moth and aphids. When the weather warms up and you see some white butterflies in the yard, it is best to protect any of the brassicas with a fine netting and plant some alliums like spring onions, leek and chives close by. I sow seeds in autumn but also in early spring. Frost and a little bit of snow won’t kill seedlings, they will slowly build roots and when the weather warms up they grow pretty fast. I love to sprinkle a big handful of seeds in a veggie bed and when I get millions of baby kales I thin them up by picking them bunch to bunch. The more the plants grow, the more I thin up and then select the strongest mature ones to pick the leaves as needed until they flower. They will then form pods full of seeds to collect for the next round!
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