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Vermont Garden Journal: Kale

flickr/Laurel Fan

Fri 5/17/13 5:55 pm & Sun 5/19/13 9:35 am

Kale is a killer vegetable. Before you turn up your nose, just consider the facts. Ounce for ounce kale has more iron than beef and calcium than milk. It a super food, loaded with antioxidants that put other leafy greens like spinach and lettuce to shame. And it's beautiful. There are burgundy red varieties, dark blue varieties and a new yellow and green variegated type.

But life wasn't always so glamorous for kale. Relegated as an after thought at salad bars and a garnish for years, kale was considered the poor man's cabbage and rarely eaten. But with new varieties and uses, such as kale chips, kale is now a star in the vegetable garden.

To grow kale let's start with the basics. Kale loves cool weather and rich, moist soil so sow seeds or plant seedlings now in compost amended beds. Spray neem oil to protect seedlings from flea beetles who's feeding creates shotgun-like holes in the leaves. Get adventurous with your varieties. Many already know of lacinata or dinosaur kale with its puckery, blue-green leaves. Try 'Red Bor' for its burgundy colored leaves and stems. And there's a new Dutch variety called Kosmic Kale with variegated green and yellow leaves. It's hardy to 10F so will last well into fall.

I plant kale now and leave it until fall when the kale bed looks like a mini forest of 3 to 4 foot tall kale trees. After a frost the flavor sweetens and texture gets tender making for great eating. To make kale chips massage chopped, dry, kale leaves in olive oil, add salt and pepper and place them, not touching, on a cookie sheet, in a 350 degree oven. After 5 to 10 minutes you'll have crispy chips and your kids will love you forever!

Now for this week's tip, place chicken wire or metal grow through supports around your peonies now before they get too big to handle. These will help keep the flowers from flopping over.

Next week on The Vermont Garden Journal I'll be talking about gladiolus. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

How to Grow: Kale
Kosmic Kale

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