What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn’t much better than tedious disease. ~ Alexander Pope
A few years ago I planted Tuscan Kale or Cavello Nero for the first time. It is now a staple in my winter garden.
Kale is just so easy to grow. It’s delicious and versatile in the kitchen in soups, stews, bakes and juices. And when the leaves get a bit too big or a bit old and tough, my chickens prefer Kale over any other leafy green. This year I have sourced a few different Kale varieties to try in addition to my favourite Cavolo Nero. Red Russian Kale and Dwarf Curly.
Sure, Kale is uber-trendy and is as conspicuous as a Kardashian. It’s everywhere right now! I’ve got to be honest and say I’m getting over all the hype around Kale. It’s part of the reason why I have not included one of my own recipes here.
So if Kale icecream, Kale chips, Kale cupcakes, Kale jerky or the utter blasphemy that surely is a Kale cocktail is what you are looking for, Google them. There are plenty of unusual recipes out there. Kale appears to be a gateway vegetable to obsession!
It’s popularity is no doubt due to the fact that Kale is a nutrient bomb.* It is is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium. Kale is also a source of two carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin. Kale has a reputation as being good for cancer prevention, as it contains both sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced) and indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which apparently boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
All sounds good does’t it? Yet, there have been a few kale detractors of late. Apparently, over consumption of Kale has lead to hyperthyroidism in sensitive individuals. And even suspected incidences of Thallium poisoning. But before you go cold turkey, have a click on the links and checkout what the experts think.
I think the key word here is over-consumption, friends. Which basically means you should have a slice of Chocolate Beetroot Mudcake instead of a kilo of raw Kale smoothie every now and then.
Red Russian Kale is so pretty, I occasionally put some in a vase! It doesn’t last long, because even Jinx has developed a taste.
Red Russian Kale is also beautiful in the vegetable patch as a boarder plant. I found the dwarf curly Kale was the least robust variety I planted and was much slower growing.
Cavello Nero is still number one for me. Mostly because it is as tasty raw and cooked. The small, young leaves are tasty in a salad (without the need for massaging!). The large leaves are excellent cooked in soups or stews. Kale holds up to heat really well, not getting mushy at all.
Kale is part of the brassica family and enjoys similar growing conditions to broccoli. I plant the seeds and raise them in my greenhouse as soon as the heat of autumn is over. Like most leafy greens, they love to have a healthy dose of manure, mulch and water. I give my Kale a dose of compost tea every fortnight. I have planted Celeriac, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Calendula in the same bed. Kale gets along with most other veggies, but has issues with Tomatoes, Capsicums, Chillis and Eggplants.
My Kale bed is located in the sunniest bed in the garden. As you can see above, it wilts on warmer days, but recovers well after a cool night.
Kale doesn’t form a heart, and I find it is exceptionally well suited to my warmer winters, which lack the chill and frost required to grow good cabbages and Brussel Sprouts. You can harvest leaves a few at a time and the plant will happily produce for months in the right conditions. A friend planted kale in her aquaponics system in an attempt to remedy a nutrient imbalance, and her Kale was the most impressive I’ve seen! She kept picking the leaves until it formed a long stem. It thrived for almost a year.
I have had problems with cabbage moth and cabbage aphids on my Kale, with the problem getting worse as the weather warms. The cabbage moths are territorial and can be fooled into thinking they are in enemy territory with skewers tied with little white scraps of fabric. The theory is the moths will then go lay their eggs elsewhere. The caterpillars are managed by picking them off into a bucket, destined for the chicken coop. Caterpillar culling is good job for the kids.
As for the aphids, they tend to stick to the underside of the leaves. If they get out of hand, I spray them with a soap & water solution. But most of the time I get away with rinsing them off before I cook it.
So give Kale a go. Just take it easy in reasonable doses.