Monday, October 25, 2010
All hail-it's KALE!!
Well, lots of folks still don't want the eggplants. But it seems to me that kale is catching on. More and more people are discovering it, and actually finding out that they really like it. And why not? It is versatile and really (double really) good for you.
I grew 5 types this year. As I refer back to my Seed Savers Exchange yearbook, I see 26 varieties were offered to members in 2010. That's a lot of different kales!
Kale is a member of the brassica family (Brassica oleracae), a very interesting family indeed. This family includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi as well as mustards and cress. Hard to believe isn't it, that this whole family most likely descended from one single wild mustard variety which was most likely originally found in the Mediterranean.
Through individuals selecting and reselecting seed based on their personal preferences this family developed many new members. By the fifth century B.C. a preference across Europe for larger leaf varieties, led to the introduction of kale. I have one in my garden that is particularly large leaved called Asparagus Kale. It even looks like a primitive variety-but it is yummy!
I plant all my kale from transplant, no direct seeding in the garden because of pests that love it. Small young seedlings just starting out can be a favourite for flea beetles and cabbage loopers. I figure if I put in transplants, I'm guaranteed a good crop.
I start my seed indoors in March, transplant into larger containers a few weeks later- and try to get plants out in the field when they are 6 weeks old. Some books say to start kale as a fall crop, but I'm eating it in June....and still eating it in the fall, so I don't see the point in a late start.
But there is no doubt it shines in the cooler fall garden. It takes frost after frost and just gets better. Sweeter, tastier and the plant itself becomes more robust.
Pest wise, the cabbage loopers love it. I patrol all my brassicas throughout the growing season, picking off the loopers at least once a week. I pop them in a small bucket, then feed them to the chickens who are happy about this indeed.
I would say that out of the ones I grow Lacinato (aka Dinosaur or Nero di toscano) is my favourite. I like the sturdy texture of it, it's dark green bubbly appearance and strong flavour-especially after a frost which sweetens it up remarkably.
My neighbour , an elderly dutch woman is always so excited when the kale is ready. She calls it borekale (which is farmer's kale in dutch and I believe is the equivalent of collards), but it is truly kale she is after. She cooks it up with her potatoes, and mashes it all together with some butter, salt and sometimes a bit of bacon. A dutch treat!
I like mine stir fried in a bit of olive oil, with a good bit of chopped garlic. Yummy!
Or how about this -