The collard greens of the deep South are among the most nutritious crops you can grow. They are just one of many members of the cabbage family known as “brassicas”. Collard is more tolerant of heat than many of these cool weather lovers. In fact, many of the kale group are staple fare in the northern temperate regions around the globe. Unlike other greens such as lettuces which are eaten fresh, these kale “pot greens” are typically stir fried or stewed before eating.
Curly leaf kale can be a real producer in spring and summer. Its leaves are fast growing and thrive in cool springs like this year. While heat loving crops will be struggling to start up, greens are the staples that kept folks alive and fed during the difficult weather years of the Middle Ages. It is said that repeated crop failures in Europe set civilization back many centuries.
Russian kale is distinguished by its red or purple leaves. These plants produce a flatter open, more cabbage like clump. Like curly leaf types, once established you can use scissors to cut some leaves to add to everyday meals without sacrificing your plants. They are exceptional dropped last minute into hot soup!
Grow kale from seed, or if you’re lucky specialty garden centers may have starts from local organic farms. Because they germinate so readily it’s cheap and easy to grow a whole mess of greens in any yard, even if its sun challenged.
Kale, like all brassicas will bolt and go to seed with the expanding day length. Heat also causes them to bolt so enjoy them during the cooler months. Once they bolt the plant will die. However, don’t forget to replant them again from seed at the end of summer. They’ll mature by late fall and keep producing into the winter. Kale can survive a surprising amount of frost, which is said to make the leaf and stem much sweeter. Without expanding days they may never bolt and hang on until ice and snow finally do them in.
To find seed for a variety of kales for a backyard taste test this year, and for other tasty pot greens online, go to The Cook’s Garden at http://www.cooksgarden.com/searchprods.asp