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Here in Virginia, the Spring has been very generous with us. A few weeks of rain, and very mild temperatures.
I absolutely love growing Kale, and grow it from seed every year. It is very easy to grow, and hardy and can withstand freezes and heat. This fantastic weather has ensured my Kale crop has exploded. We’ve been eating it daily and giving it away in bag-fulls. And I’m still drowning in it!
I absolutely love kale as an early-year, cold-hardy plant. It takes cold, dreary conditions and neglect very well. The only issue I’ve ever had growing kale is as the days warm up, and the bugs come out, the outer leaves get a bit bug-eaten. I don’t spray or even try to discourage the bugs, however.
There’s an old story of a farmer whose cabbages keep getting eaten by rabbits. The townspeople go to the old farmer and ask him what he’s going to do about the rabbits. Is he going to shoot them? Lay out poison? Erect a fence? The farmer shakes his head, smiling, and says, “I’ll just plant a few more rows.” To the farmer, this was the easiest, and most harmonious solution. The rabbit’s need to eat too.
That’s my outlook on kale. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort from me to grow, and a few sacrificial outer leaves for the bugs mean they leave the internal, young leaves alone. The bugs need to eat too.
Not only is kale very cold tolerant, depending on your summers, it can survive the heat AND the cold and grow for you year-round. You need to go out and harvest a few leaves every few days, but isn’t that the point?
Kale is also incredibly nutritious for you. I think touting it as a “super food” was a little extreme, but if you’re looking for a natural source of Vitamin A, C or K, you can’t do much better. One cup of kale has 10302 IU (or 206% of your daily allowance) of Vitamin A, 80.4 mg (or 134% of your daily allowance of Vitamin C, and 547 mcg (or 684%!!!!) of your Vitamin K.
Vitamin A is essential for eyesight and eye-health as well as bone development and immune support. (A word of caution about Vitamin A, however: taking too much can be toxic. Be careful eating a lot of Kale if you already take a supplement with a lot of Vitamin A).
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and helps to repair body tissue such as muscles and bone. It also decreases your total and bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
Vitamin K supports blood clotting, supports bone health and aids in preventing heart disease. It works in conjunction with Vitamin D, which means if you don’t get enough Vitamin K, your body can’t absorb the Vitamin D you’re in-taking. The catch with eating kale for Vitamin K, though, is that Vitamin K is fat-soluble, so you need to eat some fat along with your kale for your body to absorb the Vitamin K. So throw some chicken or olive oil on that kale salad.
All three of these (Vitamins A, C and K) are know to help prevent cancer. All with one cup of kale a day. *mind.blown*
For great red russian kale seeds, check out Seeds For Generations.
There are several ways you can preserves it if you find yourself the new owner of pile of fresh kale:
The easiest, and my preferred method is to freeze it in freezer bags. After harvesting your kale, pull it off the center stem and wash and dry thoroughly. If it is left wet, the water will cause freezer burn on your kale. Once dry, simply shove handfuls in freezer bags and throw in the freezer! This method works for using kale for smoothies, soups, or sauteed, but the texture changes too much to replace “fresh” kale.
Another method available is to harvest kale in bunches and hang it in a cool, dry room. This is not a method I can employ as we spend most of the summer with our windows open and Virginia summers are notoriously humid.
If you only want to use your kale for smoothies, dehydrating it is an excellent option. Using a dehydrator or your oven at a low setting, wash and lay out the kale in a single layer. Once it’s dried crisp, pulverize it with a mortar and pestle. This allows you to store a huge amount of kale in a very small space.