Photo: Oxmoor House
SEASON: Fall through spring
CHOOSING: Look for bunches that are dark green and free of yellow or brown blemishes.
STORING: Place cut kale in a plastic produce bag in your refrigerator for up to a week.
GROWING: In warm areas, kale is best grown in the cool months of spring and fall. It’s also remarkably coldhardy and will survive all but the most severe winters, remaining usable even after nights dipping to 10 degrees. Kale is even better after one or two frosts—the leaves will develop a touch of sweetness that is worth the wait.
There are a number of delicious options for planting: the frilly Winterbor and Dwarf Blue Curled; the hardy, purple-veined Red Russian; and the blue-green Lacinato, also known as dinosaur or Tuscan kale.
Set out transplants about a month before the last frost in spring. Plant again in late summer, about two months before the first anticipated frost. In warm regions, planting can continue all winter into spring.
Kale is a leafy green requiring sun, moisture, and rich soil. Amend your soil with organic materials such as bagged garden soil, mushroom compost, or your own compost. Add timed-release fertilizer granules to the soil before planting to ensure nonstop nutrition and the best growth.
Space transplants about a foot apart. To get the most from limited garden space, plant wide rows: three rows of kale in a bed 4 square feet wide, which allows you to reach the center of the bed from each side while giving you the maximum room for planting. Water well, and mulch the bed with pine needles, wheat straw, or bark nuggets to keep the soil moist. Water at least an inch weekly.
Harvest kale sustainably by picking the outer leaves, leaving the top ones to nourish the plant.