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Kale, Glorious Kale!

Kale, Glorious Kale!

Good news travels fast, so you've likely heard by now Kale is a super-vegetable that is high in vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. Kale is an exceptional ingredient with real health benefits and a tasty flavour. The nutrient-rich facts are true and there is no better way to eat Kale consistently than to grow your own, easily accessible plants.

From the home gardener's standpoint, Kale is highly regarded for its ability to yield during cooler temperatures. Fresh-from-the-garden vegetable options drop off when the heat of summer begins to fade, but Kale continues to grow and actually becomes more robust in flavour.

To grow Kale

Place each plant 12-18" (30-45cm) apart in a sunny location, where it will receive over 6 hours of direct sunlight. Enrich the soil with compost or a slow-release vegetable fertilizer prior to planting. Provide Kale plants with a consistent supply of water each week. When given proper care, a Kale plant yields more tender and flavourful leaves.

If you live in zones 8-10 (minimum temperature of 10°F/-12°C), then your Kale will produce new leaves all winter. For Kale grown in colder areas, you may extend the harvest season by taking additional cold protection measure, such as applying a thick layer of mulch around the plants or covering the plants with row covers. Once a Kale plant produces yellow flowers, also known as bolting, it is a sign the plant is done producing for the year, and it should be removed from the garden.

To harvest Kale

Cut off the leaves from the plant as they are needed. Do not pick the top centre of the plant, this area is necessary for the plant to continually renew leaves faster. Smaller tender leaves are ideal for salads, while older leaves are perfect for cooking.

To store Kale

Put the unwashed leaves in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where it stores well for up to 7 days. To freeze Kale for future use, follow these steps to blanch, which preserves the flavour of frozen vegetables. First, wash the greens and remove the central rib (removing the rib is optional). Next, boil the greens for 3 minutes, then immediately plunge the Kale into ice water for 3 minutes. Drain the greens thoroughly and store in re-sealable storage bags, removing as much air from the bag as possible.