I wasn’t always a fan of kale. As a matter of fact, I always associated the taste of kale with dirty feet. It wasn’t until we started to grow our own that I really started to appreciate kale for what it is.
Kale is a super food packed with so many nutrients like Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Potassium and iron. Some might say that kale is the healthiest food you could possibly grow.
But what about the taste?
Kale doesn’t have to be nasty. I’m convinced that the trick to finding good tasting kale is to source it locally. Nothing beats fresh kale, and the stuff you might find at the grocery store usually just doesn’t compare.
We grow Siberian Kale because of its broad, tender leaf and high quality sweet taste. It’s easy to grow, and its one of the first things we plant in early spring.
Why Siberian Kale?
We grow Siberian Kale because it’s exceptionally tender and sweet, even when at full maturity. It grows very well in our Iowa climate, even during our hot and humid summer months.
How do we grow it?
Kale seed is very small and so we don’t bother planting with our seeder. Instead, we will scatter seed by hand over a well prepared bed and then gently rake over with soil. Kale doesn’t need to be planted very deep at all, and we don’t bother with thinning. Kale germinates very quickly and within 25 days our 100′ beds are filled with lush baby leaves growing on tender stalks. Growing in this method almost eliminates the need to weed the beds because the kale crowds out anything else that might want to grow.
Kale is vulnerable to several species of pest. Flea beetles love to munch on baby kale leaves. So do the rabbits, ground hogs and deer. We never spray our leaf vegetables with pesticides, and are always experimenting with different methods to ward off pests. We have found that planting kale early in spring will give it a good start before flea beetles start to emerge in warmer weather. They still hit our crop, but wont’ decimate it once the plants are well established. In a particularly bad year for insects, we might use a floating row cover to minimize damage. We are also experimenting with cross planting our beds with flowers and other plants that deter certain insects. Marigolds and basil are two great options to cross plant with kale, as they attract beneficial insects that will eat flea beetles.
And the rabbits? We do spray the perimeter of our garden plots with a plant safe rabbit and deer deterrent. You can find what we use here. That and the addition of our two dogs who like to chase anything that moves seem to keep the rabbit and ground hogs in check.
How do we harvest it?
Early in the season all of our kale is harvested at baby stage. We cut it all by hand, using scissors to trim the stalks about a half-inch from the ground. Once cut, the baby kale goes into plastic bins to be prepped for our CSA customers or for the farmer’s market. We wash in ice-cold water to immediately take the heat off, dry and then it goes directly into the cooler. If prepped properly after harvest, kale will last up to three weeks in the cooler, although we aim to sell it within a day or two. But its long shelf life is a reason why many of our customers love to buy it fresh from the farm.
Kale will grow back, and we’ll often get two or sometimes three cuttings off each plant. The longer it grows, however, the less sweet it tastes. So we’ll plant successions of Siberian kale all through the season.
How do you eat kale?
The best way to eat kale, in my opinion, is fresh. Either on its own or mixed with spinach or a lettuce blend, kale makes a great salad. Consider mixing it with cranberries, cheese and a light vinaigrette for an incredible lunch. You can also use it in a variety of soups or dishes. Kale goes well with pasta and fish, or bake it in a pot pie. Kale also freezes well.
If you enjoy making your own juices or smoothies, kale is the super food that will offer an extra punch of vitamins and flavor. We like to juice kale with a couple of apples, celery stalks, carrots and a little bit of ginger. So good!
Tell us your kale story. Do you have a favorite recipe? Share it with us here on the blog or visit us on our Facebook page. And don’t forget to support your local farmer’s market!