By Nancy Bennett
When I first started getting my weekly food basket from a local grower, I kept getting a strange leafy vegetable. Not exactly lettuce, nor cabbage and definitely not swiss chard. I finally asked what it was that seemed to appear in my fall and spring basket with regularity, and more important, how did I cook it. Kale was the mystery vegetable green, and once I learned how to prepare it, it became a quick favorite at our table.
Kale will grow where other things won’t and even during harsh weather. It is one of the first greens to appear in spring, and one of the last to die out in fall. Some places even winter it, picking it when the sun has warmed the leaves through for a tasty green treat. Kale leaves are great addition to winter salads.
Types of Kale
There are several types of kale including red, green, curled, savoy and fringed. Redabor is a great one for the winter garden, as the leaves turn red and purple in the cold. Lacinato is an Italian heirloom also known as dinosaur kale with blue gray leaves. Scottish varieties include the dwarf blue curled, a smaller variety which is good for smaller growing areas.
Start Kale in your winter bed in July all the way through August, depending on your area.
Seeds can be grown 4 weeks earlier into transplants, or direct seeded into your garden. Kale likes sun, so pick a sunny location, and if you want to extend the season of kale even further, consider growing them in a cold frame. Kale can withstand a light frost and looks particularly good in a window box.
Health Benefits of Kale
Kale has a staggering amount of Vitamin C and is high in calcium, Beta carotene and iron. Steamed kale is great for reducing your cholesterol, and is used to help prevent some types of cancer, including bladder, breast and colon. High in antioxidants, Kale can be eaten many ways. Steam, fried with garlic and olive oil, baked into vegetarian lasagna or even made into crispykale chips. It is one food you should have on your table at least 3 times a week.
It was the Romans who probably brought kale into their areas of conquest, as both the Romans and the Greeks had been eating it for centuries. Long before potatoes caught on Kale was grown all over Europe, especially in Scotland and England. The Scots erected kale yards in order to extend the season and keep the crops going. Kale was eaten fresh, or pickled and served to both livestock and household during the cold winter months. When people started to favor less leaf and more tight buds, kale was pressed into service and bred to form what was the ancestor of the cabbage.
Garlic and Melted Kale Recipe
This is our families favorite kale recipe, simply made in about 15 minutes. Makes a great addition to a light vegetarian meal, serve with crusty bread and baked beans.
- 1 lb. dark green kale leaves, chopped
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, chopped in small pieces
- 3 cloves fresh garlic minced
- white pepper
- dulce or sea salt
- 1 1/2 cup – 2 cups water, added 1/2 cup at a time
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook onions and garlic until soft.
- Add the Kale and any seasoning you might wish (we use a dulce or seaweed mix instead of salt, and white pepper.)
- Cook Kale until it wilts in about 3 minutes.
- Add water a bit at a time, until the kale becomes soft.
- Continue cooking until all the liquid is nearly cooked out.
- Splash with balsamic vinegar and serve.
About the Author: Nancy V Bennett divides her time between her farm ( Three Sisters Farm) on Vancouver Island and writing articles on a wide variety of subjects. Her work has appeared in over 400 publications, including Dogs In Canada, HR Luxury Magazine and Reunions Magazine. She is an avid heirloom gardener and promoter of saving and sharing seeds, especially rare and endangered tomato and sweet pea varieties.