Last week I managed to scamper out to the garden and sow some kale. At present the seedlings are just tiny (and suffering a bit from all the recent rain) but in my dreams they will grow into a beautiful bed of kale like the one pictured above! Last winter we grew Cavolo Nero for the first time and were very pleasantly surprised at how nice it was, so this year I thought I would make sure we have some kale for the winter months.
Kale, (also known as Borecole) is a member of the cabbage family, with a reputation for being able to grow anywhere. Kale is believed to have been cultivated for several thousand years and the original wild cabbage still grows around the shores of the Mediterranean. Its botanical name is Brassica oleracea acephala. "Acephala" means "headless" and unlike firm-headed cabbages, kale is distinguished by having no heart. The open form means the leaves accumulate more vitamins A and C, and more antioxidant carotenoids than heading cabbages whose tightly furled inner leaves never see daylight. Kale is also a good source of vitamins B6 and K and minerals such as iron and calcium.
Gerard grew a bed of different kale varieties in his display garden last season and they looked just beautiful with the variety of leaf shapes and colours.
Kale Red Russian is a flat-leafed type with pretty wavy leaves which are blue-green in warmer weather but which develop gorgeous red-hued stems and leaf-veins in cooler weather. Kale Red Russian is also one of our really popular microgreens.
Cavolo Nero (which means "black cabbage") is a rustic Italian variety also known as cabbage palm tree, Tuscan cabbage or dinosaur kale.Kale is an excellent cool weather crop and is easy to grow. Now is a good time to sow seeds - you can sow seed directly where the plants are to grow or you can also sow into seedtrays and plant out in 4-6 weeks. Spacing for most types of kale is 20-30cm apart but Kale Portugese and Cavolo Nero will need more room - space them at 50-60cm apart. To make sure you are observing good crop rotation practice, don't grow your kale where you have recently grown another brassica.
Kale can be left growing happily in the garden and you can pop out and harvest leaves as needed. The deeper green leaves are more nutritious. Smaller leaves are great to use for salad greens and larger leaves can be cooked as a leafy green. The flavour is improved by frost, and some of our Dutch customers recommend freezing the harvested leaves before cooking them, to achieve the same effect. Kale is a key ingredient in traditional borecole - mashed potato served with ribbons of kale and a spicy sausage.
In the kitchen I usually just cut kale into ribbons and add it to whatever I am cooking. I like it better than cabbage because it holds it shape so well.
I thought I would have a look around for other recipes for kale and discovered that "kale chips" are extremely popular - they're even sold as a prepacked snack! I'm definitely going to try making these (I have high hopes that the children will like them!) just as soon as my kale has grown big enough. Here is the recipe - simplicity itself and it sounds really yummy:
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 150°F.
- Rinse and dry the kale (it is important that the kale is DRY before baking).
- Remove the stems and tough centre ribs.
- Cut or tear into large pieces and toss with olive oil in a bowl, making sure that all the leaves are coated with oil (get your hands in there!). Then sprinkle with salt.
- Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake until crisp. Check them frequently as they don't take long.
Now I just need the rain to stop so that my seedlings can have half a chance.