This is not an ode to Norwood High School basketball / wall-e-ball great Chris Kale. This is an ode to the super veggie. After gardening for a few years, I have absolutely fallen in love with this under-appreciated, under-utilized plant. It is power packed with nutrients and health benefits. Growing and eating kale is in the category of “I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t do this,” along with make Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes, love all the ins and outs of basketball, and think Zoolander is the best comedy ever made (makes me laugh hard every single time! Hansel’s apartment, c’mon, nothing’s funnier than that). Anyone looking to have a healthy, sustainable garden needs to have kale in the ground, and on the table.
Kale is just the best. Well, if you’re talking taste, it’s not really the best, but it checks off all the other boxes of everything you look for in a food. I am going to break this down from farm to table right now.
The kale plant it just the toughest SOB in the business. As long as the soil is remotely thawed, kale can grow. I prefer to transplant seedlings rather than start from seed, and there is no set time to do that, unlike many seeds where you have to wait until the last frost, or after the equinox, or before the third moon of the 8th month of the year of the dragon (I’m looking at you eggplant). Kale is in fact made sweeter as the weather gets colder, it does not care if there is full sun or partial shade, and can go a couple of days without water. This plant has one goal in mind: creating as many nutrients and anti-oxidants as possible.
To harvest kale just pick the leaves off the plant where the stem meets the stalk. One reason kale plants are key to a low-maintenance and sustainable garden is the “cut and come back” aspect of it. The second a leaf is pick, another one starts growing in its place. The constant growing and picking provides the gardener with a near endless supply of the leafy green for literally months at a time. As mentioned before, temperature affects the flavor (but not the quantity) of the leaf, so planting early in the season can provide an opportunity to have different tasting kale depending on the month.
Ok, preparing kale is the trickiest part of the whole experience. Making this often bitter, always tough food enjoyable to eat* is not always easy. Honestly, what I usually do is just add it to anything that has a lot of other ingredients. Throwing a handful in with a strawberry, banana, and yogurt smoothie, and adding it to stir fry are the 2 most common ways I consume it. When I have the time, I lay them out on a baking sheet, drizzle some olive oil on them, and bake them. Look below for some suggested recipes that I consider “go to.” If one or two recipes don’t work out, keep trying new ones. With all the health benefits of kale, you should take an entire summer to find something that works for you.
Storing kale is easy and important because the stuff often grows quicker than you can consume it. It can last for about a week / week and a half with the stems down in a glass of water in the fridge (just be careful not to knock it over). Due to its badass, hearty nature, kale freezes very well. If you have a flourishing plant, you undoubtedly will get sick of eating it. Even if you take a week off, the leaves will continue to grow, so you have to keep picking it, to make room on the plant for more,….. and the cycle goes and goes. When growing kale, investing in some freezer bags and freezer space will guarantee you have plenty of fresh, homegrown, nutrient packed leafy greens well into the winter.
Have I done it yet? Have I convinced everyone reading this to drop everything and become kale farmers? With a veggie that is easy to care for, has an extended growing season, is packed with nutrients, stores well in the freezer, and allows you to experiment in the kitchen, it’s hard to imagine why there aren’t kale plants all over the place.
KALE FO-EVA BABY!!!!
*The taste of kale is easily acquired. It does take some “choking back” at first, but after a few servings, enjoyment does come. If I was told a couple of years ago that I could rip a leaf off the plant and put it right in my mouth, I would not have believed it.
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