a year in the life of a kale plant …
One vegetable that I always include in the veg patch is Kale. At first, many years ago, I only grew it to feed my goats and hens but gradually realised that I could eat it too. Now, apparently, it is regarded as a super-food with celebrity endorsement from Gwyneth Paltrow, and it even has its own website discoverkale.co.uk Who knew!
It is an invaluable veg for use during the hungry-gap between January and March when there is little else to eat in the garden – then towards the end of March it bolts and flowers, ready to produce seed for next year’s crop. But before then you can pick plenty of leaves for meals right through the year.
These plants withstand everything the weather can throw at them and survives frost (which makes it taste all the sweeter) and being covered in snow, coming out unscathed. The only downside is that, like all members of the brassica family, it attracts pests, namely white fly and cabbage white butterflies, although they don’t seem to do as much damage to the Curly Kale, as they would, say, to Brussels sprouts.
I grow three types, Cavolo Nero, Curly Kale and Scarlet Kale (Russian) – all three are eminently photographable, and can be included in all manner of meals. I prefer to chop it finely and steam it, or perhaps stir-fry – but it can be made into a health-giving juice or crisped in the oven, or turned into soup with butter-beans and orange.
“From a distance, huge undulating pillows of green and dusky blue. Close-up coarse, frilly leaves with a tough central rib. In the mouth roughly textured a little chewy, sweet and slightly bitter. Kale is both pleasingly humble yet vibrant and big flavoured, a forerunner of the full-headed cabbages we know today”. Nigel Slater
From the sowing of seed in March (it germinates in a few days), to planting out in April – it stays in the veg patch for a full twelve months – and even after it goes to seed, produces little spriglets along the stem in a last ditch attempt to give you a few more dinners. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is worth giving it a go and experimenting to find a way to use it to your satisfaction – it is nothing if not versatile.
As one professional grower puts it:-
“Basically, if you keep eating it, you’re just never going to die”.
So good are it’s health-giving properties.