A Garden Blog by Kevin Milaeger

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Kale! Kale! The Greens are Here!

August 29
, 2014     (See below for archives)

I was recently shocked when I watched a TV commercial (of a forgotten product) that suggested that kale was the next thing to inedible. It implied that no one in their right mind would eat it, and it further intoned that everyone was aware of this “fact” and pretty much agreed with it. Now, I know kale is sometimes described as being “bitter,” but I think that is when it is picked at the wrong time or prepared wrong. Preparation is everything with kale, just like many other foods. Is this a problem? I think most foods taste poorly if they are prepared incorrectly, no? Like most things, if you follow instructions, things usually work out okay.

Apparently the makers of the commercial are unaware of kale’s place in today’s healthy cooking. In the current climate of health awareness, kale has emerged as a frontrunner. According to the “World’s Healthiest Foods” website, kale is “one of the healthiest vegetables around.” In the book “Eating on the Wild Side,” Jo Robinson says “all kale varieties are good sources of cancer-fighting, heart protective glucosinolates.” Plus, they have “high antioxidant value, with red-leaved varieties higher than green-leaved.”  In “The Edible Front Yard,” kale is described as “a vegetable superstar and the darling of fine food circles,” and “a must for the edible garden.” Kudos to kale are numerous.

There are many types of kale. Some have frilly leaves, and others are smooth, more like collards. Coloring can vary too; most are some shade of green especially blue-green, but quite a few have some pinkish red highlights. One favorite is the so called “Dinosaur Kale,” also known as “lacinato” in seed catalogs. (Other common names are Tuscan Kale and Black Kale.) The elongated, dark gray-green leaves have a reptilian texture, especially when they get large (but you should have picked them when small.) ‘Dino’ is reputed to be sweeter and milder than other types; it also has more phytonutrients than any other kale. ‘Red Russian,’ a frilly type with bold coloring, is another favorite because it is both beautiful and nutritious. All kale is edible, but the varieties known as “ornamental” kale are decidedly less toothsome. They can be used as a colorful garnish, but a dinner guest unfamiliar with it might try it and decide your dinner is less than tasty.

Kale is easy to grow and can be grown as a spring or fall crop. Fall is perhaps more ideal since most people feel the flavor improves as the weather cools. Some say it is best after a light frost, when the bitterness that is common in some varieties is reduced. The harvest can sometimes be extended well into November. (Our average first frost date is October 17.)

I like to harvest the young kale leaves. If you pick the outer leaves when they are small, they taste better, and the plant will keep on producing more leaves. The cut leaves last a long time in the fridge. Of course there are plenty of recipes featuring kale on the web. Most of them are for salads, soups, stir-fries, and pasta dishes. We offered a kale salad in our café earlier this year (pictured above.) It was very popular---here is a link to the recipe. Keep in mind that kale is most nutritious when served fresh, not cooked. But even cooked, it is far better than many other foods. I’ve read more than once that the best way to cook it is steam it or sauté it with olive oil, just long enough so it wilts.

Note: I always remove the midrib of the kale leaf as it is usually stringy, especially on larger leaves.

We are now offering young kale plants for your garden. They are part of our fall “Greens to Grow” program, which also includes other greens like colorful lettuces, broccoli and others. All are easy to grow. We have them at both stores and at the Kenosha Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

Although I was bellyaching earlier in the season about the cool weather and its effects on the fruit production of heat loving crops, it seems I am now inundated with tomatoes. I think the recent surge in temperatures is responsible, and I couldn’t be happier. I like to give the extra tomatoes as hostess gifts, and to guests who come to my house.

And speaking of tomatoes, don’t forget that Tomatomania is coming up in about a week----Saturday, September 6 at our Racine store. This is a fun and free event; everyone has a great time. There will be over 140 kinds of tomatoes to try, and over forty kinds of peppers. Plus lots of other tasty treats! Click here for event details. Please email me (kevin@milaegers.com) if you have any questions or comments.


Archives  (Click on the green text for links)

August 2014 - Kale Recipe

August 2014 - The August Harvest Begins

July 2014 - Greens to Grow for Fall!!!  Click here for Spreadsheet

July 2014 - My Tomatoes are Blushing

June 2014 - Some Tomato Concerns

May 2014 - Garden Update --- the Cold Weather Experiment

May 2014 - Is it Time to Plant Tomatoes?

May 2014 - Vintage Veggies #4 and Vintage Veggies List 2014

April 2014 - A Chilly Spring... What Can I Plant Now?

March 2014 - Start Growing Your Own Food Right Now

February 2014 - Greens to Grow   Click here for Spreadsheet


October 2013 - Keep Calm and Garden On!

October 2013 - Autumn Vegetables

September 2013 - Tomato Popularity Poll Results Blog

September 2013 - Tomatomania Category and Cumulative Results

September 2013 - Tomatomania 2013 Blog, Video and T-Shirt

August 2013 - Greens to Grow and Spreadsheet

July 2013 - Spaghetti Squash

July 2013 - New Tomato and Zucchini Recipe Blog
July 2013 - Tomato and Zucchini Recipe

June 2013 - Cold Spring - What it Means for Vegetables
May 2013 - Tomatoes in Containers
May 2013 - Vintage Veggies 2013
April 2013 - My Tomato Garden Preview 2013
April 2013 - Don't Forget Rosemary!
April 2013 - It's Planting Time
March 2013 - Onions
March 2013 - Vintage Veggies
March 2013 - Greens to Grow Update
February 2013 - Hot Peppers
February 2013 - Grafted Tomatoes
February 2013 - Greens to Grow

September 2012 - Tomatomania Results
July 2012 - Compass Plant
July 2012 - Heat Wave
June 2012 - Okra
June 2012 - Potato Onion
May 2012 - Gas Plant

May 2012- My Tomato Garden
May 2012 - Vintage Veggie Fest
March 2012 - Growing Raspberries in SE Wisconsin
March 2012 - Winter Tomato Project
February 2012 - Success with Sweet Peppers
February 2012 - Vegetable Cukes Miniature
January 2012 - Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2011 -Tomatomania Review 
August 2011 - Tomatomania Preview
August 2011 - Racine Vegetable Garden Tour
Summer 2011 - Vegetables in my Garden
July 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
June 2011 - Vegetables - Diseases made Simple
June 2011 - Vegetables - Container Growing
May 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
April 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Event Preview
March 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Announcement

September 2010 - Tomatomania Review 
August 2010 - Flowers Late Summer Color
July 2010 Vegetables Cukes and Tomatoes
June 2010 Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2009 - Tomatoes End of Season Review 
September 2009 - Tomatomania Review
July 2009 - Tomatoes General and Fruit Set Problems
June 2009  - Tomatoes Fertilization
June 2009  - Tomatoes Personal Experience
May 2009 - Tomatoes General
May 2009 - Tomatoes Diseases
May 2009 - Tomatoes Selecting and Growing
April 2009 - Tomatoes General

Any questions or comments, please contact us at: gardenquestions@milaegers.com