by Toni Salter
Whenever I sell organic seeds at the farmers' market, I usually sell out of the typical seasonal vegetable seeds by the end of the day. Lately, however I have been selling all of my kale seeds within the first hour or two.
Why is it that kale has become so popular?
Generally, kale has not been among the most popular of vegetables and most mothers have to nag their children to eat their greens. These days, however there seems to be a real rush on this green vegetable.
Many nutritionists and natural therapists recognize the health value of eating kale. Baby boomers are not prepared to simply accept declining health and the younger 'green generation' is becoming more aware of the dangers of a nutrient-poor fast food diet.
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Green it is!
The deeper the color, the more beta-carotene and kale has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. Kale provides many health benefits and its dark green color is a good indicator that it is rich in iron, potassium and calcium as well as vitamins A and C.
Kale comes up quickly and is really easy to grow at home. It's like having a power pack growing right at your backdoor.
Kale is a member of the cabbage family and has similar needs and problems. When other summer crops are dying off in the garden, it's time to start thinking about sowing seeds of kale because it grows best through the cooler months.
Kale actually produces better flavor once frost hits. It's tough and resilient and will thrive in less than ideal conditions, often where other plants falter.
Enrich the soil with plenty of compost and green manure (legumes) dug into the soil before planting young starter plants. Plant your starts or seedlings about one foot apart.
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Kale is a heavy feeder so it will gobble up large amounts of nutrients. A liquid feed with a high nitrogen fertilizer every couple weeks will keep growth strong and healthy.
Treat the crop with a dash of seaweed solution mixed into your liquid fertilizer to encourage bigger leaves and to extra resistance to pests and disease.
A good reliable water supply will help kale perform best. Irrigate consistently for steady plant growth with soft, juicy leaves. Mulching with lucerne hay (alfalfa) helps keep weeds out and moisture in and ensures a steady supply of water.
Kale can sometimes suffer from grubs and aphids. A nutrient dense soil will help protect against this because a stressed plant sends out electromagnetic pulses that attracts insects. By improving soil quality first, you reduce the need for pest control later.
Kale can be grown with some fine netting draped over the crop to keep out the moths that produce the grubs. Grow kale with flowers like Cosmos, Alyssum, Sweet Alice and Nasturtiums to attract beneficial insects that will protect the crop. Allowing parsley or coriander to go to seed around plants will attract also beneficial insects.
Biodegradable soapy water can be used if pests get out of hand.
Harvest kale leaves from around the bottom of the plant first to allow it to continue to produce leaves at the top. Pick them young and fresh for juicier, tastier leaves that can be eaten raw. The older leaves tend to get a bit tougher and are best braised or steamed.
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Kale is sometimes known as borecole and the best varieties to consider are Cavolo Nero (Black Tuscan), which have deep dark green wrinkly leaves and Scotch Kale with its tightly curled frilly leaves.
Toni Salter, 'The Veggie Lady', is an Australian registered horticulturist living in Sydney. Follow Toni on Twitter and 'Like' her on Facebook
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by Toni Salter