Grow Your Own Kale and Preserve It
I recently re-discovered kale. Its been on my radar for a while now, but I haven’t figured out how to get it in our regular meal plans – until this week. I’ve started dehydrating and I’m rethinking that whole kale thing.
I tried to sneak some into a salad last summer, but my husband put the kibosh on that right away. Something about the texture. He wasn’t buying it as a lettuce substitute.
While I was at the grocery yesterday afternoon, I spied them – two big bunches of curly leaf kale for only $3. I stood there and stared at it and thought – wait a minute! Jane from Mom With A Prep just did a post about dehydrating kale and she turned it into powder. I stood there for so long, making my plans, the grocer probably thought I was nuts!
Preserving Kale Is Easy
I’m going to take Jane’s advice and dehydrate that kale. If I can’t get my husband to eat it fresh, I’ll hide it in his daily smoothie. He’ll never know the difference.***
Jane’s directions were spot on – I washed and dried the leaves, then removed them from the tough center stalk. After tearing them into smaller pieces, they went on the dehydrator trays. It only took about 10 minutes of prep time.
Don’t worry about putting them in a single layer, they won’t stick together. After 5 hours I have the most beautiful green, melt in your mouth, dehydrated kale. The smell is heavenly.
Here are the full directions from Mom With A Prep: How to Make Kale Powder and Use It
Benefits of Kale in Your Diet
In her article “Top 10 Health Benefits of Eating Kale” by Alison Lewis says, kale is being called “the new beef”, “the queen of greens” and “a nutritional powerhouse.” Some of the benefits include:
- Low calorie, with only 35 calories per cup
- High in iron and vitamin K
- Powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
AARP has even more reasons why you should (or shouldn’t) eat your daily kale.
Growing Your Own Kale from Botanical Interests
The leaves of Dwarf Blue Curled Kale are rich in vitamins and minerals and are low in calories. Like most greens, they grow best in cool weather but will also withstand some heat. The flavor of the leaves is actually improved by frost.
Plan on an average of 55 days to harvest, but outer leaves can be harvested much sooner. I purchased a packet of seeds for $1.69 from Botanical Interests. It will sow 12 rows of kale, 10 feet long.
I don’t really need this much kale (there is only so much you can hide in smoothies) but I could potentially have 120 plants for $1.69, plus some water and weeding time. What a deal!
Days to Emerge: 5-10 days
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Seed Spacing: A group of 4 seeds every 10″
Row Spacing: 18″-24″
Thinning: When 1″ tall, thin to 1 every 10″
When to sow outside: 1 to 2 weeks before average last frost for a late spring/ summer crop, late-summer for a fall crop, fall for very early spring crop (or winter crop in USDA zone 7 or warmer). Seed can also be sown in successive sowings every 3 weeks starting in early spring.
When to start inside: 4-6 weeks before average last frost. For a fall crop, start 4 to 6 weeks before average first fall frost.
Growing Tips: Kale grows best in a light soil that drains well and has had organic matter added. It will tolerate sandy or clay soils, but the flavor and texture of the leaves will be poor. Use that compost!
Like other greens, kale needs plenty of nitrogen for the best yields. Work manure-enriched compost, leaf mold, and peat moss into the soil. If your soil is acidic, apply crushed egg shells at planting time to sweeten the soil. Choose a growing area that receives sun at least 6 hours per day. Kale will tolerate partial shade.
Mulching is essential, especially in the summer because of the shallow root system. Use a combination of any of these: grass clippings, clean straw, and compost. This will conserve moisture, keep the soil cool, and make sure nutrients are available to the root system.
Give your kale a boost of manure tea after about 25 growing days.
Harvesting: Outer leaves can be periodically harvested, or the whole plant can be cut off at ground level. Plants can also overwinter; mulch thickly when ground freezes for harvest the following spring.
Clearly, the way to go with kale is to grow it. An online search today has kale powder going for between $15 and $25 a pound. Organic is even more. Preserving kale by dehydrating it and making powder will be my new go-to way to eat kale. How about you? What is you favorite way to preserve kale?
***no husbands were tricked while researching this post.