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The Surprising Benefits of Adding Kale to Your Home Garden

  • 4 min read

Kale is a cold-hardy, non-heading, green vegetable. It belongs to the brassica family, like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. One of the easiest brassicas to grow, kale is especially tasty when grown in cooler weather. Many consider it to be a superfood due to its nutritional value. The numerous benefits of kale make it a fantastic addition to your survival garden.

What Is Kale Good For?

Kale has been grown in Europe since the Middle Ages, but over the past 10 years, it has soared in popularity due to its reputation as a superfood with its high levels of vitamins and antioxidants. Kale is especially high in vitamins A, C, E, and K. It also contains important nutrients like calcium, potassium, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

kale salad

Because kale contains so many vitamins and nutrients, it has many health benefits, including:

  • Supporting Immunity. Kale contains four times the vitamin C as spinach, as well as vitamin E and beta carotene. All of these are important for a healthy immune system.
  • Good Eyesight. One cup of fresh kale contains over 20% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which is vital for healthy vision. Kale’s high vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin content may also help lower the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Healthy Heart. Kale contains many nutrients that support heart health, such as potassium, fiber, folate, and calcium. It can also help lower bad cholesterol.
  • Strong Bones. Kale is an excellent non-dairy source of calcium and vitamin K, which are both necessary for the health of your bones and teeth. A cup of fresh kale can provide almost 70% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin K.

How to Grow Kale

Kale is a biennial, which means it will produce flowers and seeds in the second year of growth. Once the seeds mature, the plant will die. Most people plant kale annually rather than letting it go to seed.

There are many different kale flavors and textures to choose from. Some are mild and sweet like Red Russian Kale, while others are more bitter like Siberian Kale. Textures range from the flat and bumpy texture of Lacinato Kale, to thick and curly.

While easy to grow, there are a few necessary considerations if you want a productive crop of nutritious greens. Kale prefers full sun and well-drained soil but will tolerate partial shade. Add plenty of compost before planting. It helps to add nitrogen-boosting amendments like blood meal or composted manure.

Kale seed collection

Plant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep about 1 inch apart in rows spaced 18-30 inches. Thin seedlings to about 12 inches apart and keep well-watered. You can plant this superfood in the spring and fall, and even as a winter vegetable under cover or outside in milder winter regions like the Southeast, Southwest, and Pacific Northwest.

When planting in spring, you can sow your kale seeds 4-6 weeks before the average last frost. They will germinate at soil temperatures as low as 40°F. This will allow you to harvest before the heat of summer which can slow growth and cause the leaves to taste bitter.

For fall planting, you can direct sow seeds 3 months before the first frost. If you are in a zone with hot summers, you may need to wait until the weather starts to cool off. The Lacinato variety is excellent for fall planting as it tolerates almost any environment and matures quickly. Kale is very cold-hardy and can tolerate hard frosts as low as 25°F without suffering damage. Frost also brings out the sweet nutty flavor of these greens.

Harvesting Kale

You can pick the leaves early as a baby salad green, or wait until the leaves reach their full size. Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are about the size of your hand. You can remove outer leaves as they mature for a continuous harvest, just don’t remove more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Avoid picking the “terminal bud” located at the top center of the plant. This is necessary for continued growth. Kale will continue to grow until temperatures reach about 20°F. You can extend your harvest with row covers or a hoop house.

Storing Kale

Kale will keep for about a week if loosely wrapped in a paper towel, sealed in a plastic bag, and stored in the refrigerator. Because of the hardiness of the leaves, you can even wash and chop the leaves to the desired size before storing them.

Kale chips

For longer-term storage, you can freeze kale. First, remove the leaves from the stems and then rinse well in cold water. Dry the leaves thoroughly and then spread on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for 2-3 hours. Once the leaves are frozen, remove them from the baking sheet and place them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 6 months.

How to Use Kale

You can use kale in recipes like many other healthy greens. Eat it fresh in a salad. It stands up well in soups and stews. Use it to make smoothies, pesto, or salad dressings. Bake or air fry to make tasty kale chips as a snack.

Kale has gained popularity in recent years due to its reputation as a superfood and versatility in cooking. From its impressive nutritional profile to its ability to thrive in various climates, this leafy green can be a game-changer for your health and can transform your home garden.

fresh kale

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