Kale Tales

This year looks to be a better year for kale than last year, despite record drought and heat. Last year, the birds pecked and ate almost all of my seedlings soon after planting in August. I had very few spare plants for backup, so I had to start seed again and replant. It was the first of October before I got it replanted, and that was too late for it to make much growth. We did harvest a little this spring from some plants that made it through the winter. That was disappointing, because we really like kale.

This year, I got the plants in the ground on September 1st, and covered the whole bed with bird netting. Since we were leaving soon on vacation, I mulched the bed heavily with shredded paper, and watered the plants in well. When we returned from our trip 12 days later, the plants were thriving. It looks like 2010 may well be the Year Of Kale!

Red Russian kale

I had accumulated quite a bit of kale seed, and wound up starting five different varieties indoors under lights. This will be a good test of what produces well here, and what overwinters. First up is a long time favorite of mine: Red Russian. I love the look of this kale, and I know it tastes great and usually survives the winter.

Red Winter kale

Kale #2 is Red Winter, a variety from Hudson Valley Seed Library that is said to be a strain of Red Russian that is “tender and sweet throughout the growing season”. I don’t see much resemblance to the Red Russian, as our plants have no red coloration in either the leaves or the stems. That’s ok, because regardless of the color it’s a vigorous grower.

Starbor kale

Starbor kale

Kale #3 is the only hybrid in the assortment, a variety called Starbor. The plants are compact, with curly blue-green leaves. It’s been a good grower too. We will soon know how it tastes.

Savoy Cross kale

Kale #4 is another open-pollinated variety called Savoy Cross. It is a cross between Black Tuscan and Dwarf Scotch kale.  The leaves are dark green and slightly ruffled. Nichols Garden Nursery says it is “exceptionally hardy”. We will see!

Black Tuscan kale

And Kale #5 is the beautiful Black Tuscan variety, also called Lacinato or “dinosaur kale”. These plants have been a bit slower growing, with dark blistered leaves on upright plants. I have found that this plant is not as hardy here as some of the other varieties, but we will give it some extra mulch and see how it does this year.

So far I haven’t harvested any of the kale. Since we have Swiss Chard and turnip greens to eat, I decided to wait for the kale to get frosted on, which will surely make it sweeter. Tonight they are calling for a heavy frost, with temps near 32F.  I guess we may be harvesting kale any time now!

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10 Responses to Kale Tales

  1. meemsnyc says:

    Wow, your kale looks so amazing! I didn’t grow any this year, but it’s definitely on my list for next year. How do you like to cook it?

    • Villager says:

      One of my favorite kale recipes is from “Moosewood Low Fat Favorites”. Called Carolina Kale, it adds tomatoes, garlic, onion, cumin and hot sauce to the kale. I’m also going to try making some baked kale chips.

  2. Robin says:

    That’s a lot of Kale! I think that you will have to do a Kale taste test.

  3. Daphne Gould says:

    I will miss having kale over the winter this year. I planted it, but the caterpillars slowed it down too much. It has recovered and is growing again but at 6″ high I think I’ll only get spring kale if they survive the winter.

  4. Mike says:

    I love that you are growing so many varieties, we always grow red and white Russian kale and find them to be our most hardy varieties although the dwarf blue curled kale seems to hang right in there with them. So this is interesting because I am also growing many different kale varieties that I plan to overwinter. Many of your varieties are different than mine and as we live in a similar zone it will be most interesting to see how they all perform.:)

    • Villager says:

      Mike, we will definitely have to compare notes on our kale plantings. That dwarf blue curly kale was the one that overwintered for us last year with NO protection! This year I’m actually going to try and help the kale a bit. 🙂

  5. I love the Red Russian Kale, and I suppose it’s fortunate that ours is always grown under row covers, as thus far we haven’t lost any to birds. My Lacinato Kale though, which we were trying for the first time this fall, had dismal germination rates. Maybe we need to try a different seed source 🙁

  6. Kelly says:

    Kale chips are yummy. I have only grown the russian varieties, I hope you find many of plants winter over successfuly!

  7. Angela says:

    Red Russian is also my favorite kale. In my garden the black Tuscan kale grows slower that the other varieties and seems less tough, I don’t know about cold hardiness, obviously, but in general it seems more delicate than workhorses like the red Russian. I grew red winter last year and it looked like a red Russian, a bit greener maybe, but hard to tell apart from a red Russian. It seemed to perform just as well.

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