Gardens

The Multi-Vitamin Veggie: Kale

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By Orion Darkwood

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Background

Kale is a vegetable in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms. Since it's a cabbage, it can be eaten as such, or cooked like collards. Kale can be differentiated between varieties according to the low, intermediate, or high length of the stem, with varying leaf types--curly, smooth, light green to dark green, violet green or violet brown. In addition, it can be eaten raw, mixed in a salad, used to wrap meats, used in a soup or stew, and juiced. Many recipes and ways to cook this multi-use plant are online.

Kale was one of the most common vegetables in many places of Europe and Middle East during the Middle Ages. It was introduced to Canada and the rest of North America in the 19th century by Russian traders.

Kale also has many health benefits. Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. It's also very high in iron and has a highoverall nutritional value. It is also a great body detoxifying food. Kale lowers blood pressure and improves eyesight.

Growing It

Kale is very easy to grow and maintain. The key is to plant late in the winter and late fall. Kale will turn bitter in high heat (above 85F), however, it is still edible. Kale can endure temperatures as low as 20F. The growing time from seed to plate is around 60 days (read the label on the seed package or research online for specific growing times of the different varieties). Kale can be grown in tight areas only requiring about 6 square inches and can grow to a foot or more in height depending on variety.

Kale prefers loamy, well-drained, moist (but not soggy) soil of average fertility. Surprisingly, it isn't a fan of soil that is too rich in nitrogen, so it will do best in slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8. Light, sandy soils and very heavy clay soils will affect the flavor of kale, but it will still be edible.

Kale requires some shade, but is otherwise a very easy to maintain plant. Kale completes its life cycle in two years (produces seed) if you are looking to collect heirloom seeds. Kale grows best with certain types of other vegetables and herbs. Its companion plants include basil, beans, dill, garlic, hyssop, lettuce, marigold, mint, onion, radish, rosemary, sage, thyme, and tomato.

Picking It

Harvest Kale when the plant is approximately 8 to 10 inches high, starting with the outside leaves first. If you decide to harvest the entire plant, cut the stock two inches above the soil. The plant will sprout new leaves in 1 to 2 weeks.

Kale is a crop that can provide you with an abundance of nutrients spring and winter depending on your location. You could say that having kale growing is like having a multi-vitamin in your garden.

Orion Darkwood (pen name of William Bradford) is an avid gardener, self-reliance instructor, writer, poet and small business owner. To learn more about Orion go to www.crossedswordsus.com.

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