Kale is one of the most popular winter vegetables. The spicy leafy greens can also be grown in your own garden.
Kale belongs to the cruciferous family and is a popular leafy vegetable, especially in northern Germany. The hearty taste and its high nutrient content are just two of the many properties that have made kale cultivation a tradition in Germany. In combination with potatoes, onions or meat dishes, kale is particularly popular in the cold season. In recent years, kale has also been increasingly celebrated as a superfood because it contains many proteins, iron and other healthy ingredients, making it a nutritious and tasty alternative to meat for many vegans and vegetarians. Here you will learn how to grow kale yourself, how to care for it, as well as many useful tips for growing and harvesting.
Planting kale: when is the season for planting?
A planting appointment in mid-May is ideal for most types of kale. This applies if you want to take care of the rearing yourself from the seed stage to the adult plants. The seeds should first be grown in seed boxes or pots. Simply place the seeds a few centimeters away at a depth of 1 to 2 cm and cover with soil. Compost is a suitable planting medium for kale cultivation. After about 6 weeks, the young plants can then be placed in the bed.
Those who prefer to buy seedlings from specialist dealers can start planting kale later. At the beginning of July at the latest, however, the kale plants should be in the soil to ensure rapid youth development.
Growing kale: location and care requirements
Kale is not very picky about its location. However, there are a few things to keep in mind for a good kale harvest.
The right location
Kale prefers to grow in nutrient-rich locations with good water retention in semi-shady conditions. It is also beneficial if the pH values in the soil are between 6.5 and 8, i.e. there are neutral to slightly alkaline conditions. This protects against the dreaded cabbage hernia, a stalk disease that affects cruciferous vegetables such as kale. As a preventive measure, some lime can be incorporated into the plant to increase the pH.
Tip: Make sure that no cruciferous vegetables have grown in the same location for at least four years to avoid infection with cabbage hernia.
When the young plants are ready for the bed, you can plant your kale with 40 to 60 cm row and side spacing. Make sure that the plants are a few centimeters deeper in the ground than before in the pot. The kale plantlets should be watered lightly.
Pour kale and fertilize
Kale is a very vigorous leafy vegetable. A constant water supply must be guaranteed, especially in midsummer, so that the frizzy leaf wreaths can develop vigorously. During the youth phase, you should keep the bed free of weeds and regularly widen the gaps between the individual kale plants. In the main growth phase, the nutrient intake should not be neglected. To ensure this, you should support your kale with organic vegetable fertilizer.
Tip: Piling the young plants promotes root growth and can prevent the cabbage fly from laying its eggs in the stalks of the kale.
The cultivation at a glance:
-Put kale seeds in seed boxes / pots
-Prepare bed: loosen deeply and add lime if necessary (raise pH value due to cabbage hernia)
-after about 6 weeks put kale in the bed (40-60 cm distance)
-Water and pile up the plantlets (protection against cabbage fly)
-Fertilize with organic vegetable fertilizer
Multiply kale yourself or buy plants
Kale is a biennial plant. If you want to propagate kale yourself, you have to be patient. If the kale is not harvested in winter, it will flower in the coming summer (June) and then elongated black pods. The pods contain seeds that can be used again for sowing in your own garden.
Alternatively, you can of course buy pre-germinated plants or seeds from a specialist dealer. If you first want to test some kale varieties in cultivation to find the optimal individual variety, you should buy different varieties from the dealer and simply try them out!
Harvesting kale: procedure and timing
Kale is a typical winter vegetable. Early varieties can be harvested from October, but later harvest times are more typical. All you need for the kale harvest is a sharp knife. If you cut the leaves off at the base, you get the greatest yield. After harvesting all the leaves, remove the stem and roots from the soil. In this way you can prevent soil-borne diseases such as the cabbage hernia and do not offer pests a breeding ground for winter.
Store kale and keep it fresh
There are several ways to keep kale long-term. Below we have summarized some methods for storing green cabbage.
Kale is mostly harvested at frosty temperatures. They even say that the full taste only develops after a strong winter frost. Freezing is the best way to make kale last longer. To do this, separate the frizzy leaf wreaths from the stems, chop them into any size and blanch them in boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. Then quench the kale with cold water and let it drain well. Prepared in this way, the kale can be frozen for at least a year.
Dry kale: Make kale chips yourself
Another way to preserve kale is to dry it. To do this, separate the leaf wreaths from the stalk and cut them into bite-sized bites. If desired, the kale can be refined with a little oil and spices. Mix the whole thing well and then let it dehydrate at 40 to 50 ° C for several hours until you get crispy kale chips. There are special Dörr ovens, but a commercially available oven should also be enough.
Boil the kale
Boiling kale is another method of preserving it. The kale is boiled after being chopped and washed. The resulting water should be poured off as it can taste very bitter. After boiling, fill the kale in layers in mason jars and pour it on with salt water. The sealed jars should be “boiled down” again for at least 80 ° C for 20 to 30 minutes.
Note: When boiling the kale, it cannot be prevented that a large part of the vitamins and ingredients are lost.