All Hail to the kale!
In my humble opinion kale is the undisputed king of the winter crops. Standing proud and hardy, over other courageous winter greens, kale varieties (and there are many) reach up to 6 feet tall!
Nutritionally speaking, it ranks head and shoulders above just about any other vegetable there is. Of course, there are close contenders such as spinach, parsley and other brassica’s like collard and cabbage but kale has it all.
The mighty kale is right up there on any global superfood chart and the numbers speak for themselves. Just 100g (an average portion) gives you these daily requirements;
800% vitamin K – This keeps bones healthy and limits neuronal damage in the brain and is used to fight the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
500% vitamin A – This keeps mucus levels high helping with healthy skin and bones and fights lung disease and oral cavity cancers. This helps with vitamin A deficiency, osteoporosis, iron-deficiency, anemia, cardio-vascular disease, and prostrate and colon cancer.
200% Vitamin C – Better than an eating an orange, kale acts as a powerful anti-oxidant and fights infections as an anti-inflammatory.
Kale is high in beta-carotene, copper, manganese, iron, potassium, sodium, phosphorus and calcium (more than a small carton of milk!). It is also a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 and has very good levels of many B-complex groups.
Kale has a high rate of phytonutrients which are used to transfer all the solar energy into food, plant energy and a long list of auto-immune and anti-oxidants. This keeps the plants healthy, fed and free from parasitic attacks.
Kale is also high in sulphur which is important for glucose metabolism meaning it can help you lose weight and help against the risks of diabetes. Kale has more glucoraphanin (the precursor of sulphur) than broccoli.
To avoid Cabbage Root Fly laying its eggs in the ground surrounding most brassica plants just cut a 15m sq. piece of card or underlay and that should make a simple solution to protect the base of the plant.
Aphids are a common problem and best dealt with by allowing for natural wild life to gauge themselves on the little critters. Put some water and kitchen scraps or crushed peanuts out for your winter birds to become a permanent fixture in your veggie patch. This will keep the caterpillars down in numbers too. Likewise hedgehogs can devour your slugs and ground based pests.
Alternatively, sprinkle a little oatmeal around the base of your plants which will be preferred by the slugs until this dehydrating and expandable snack will dry them out until they burst from the inside.
Planting Tips – If too late for this winter, kale can be planted as early as April, so put in some nasturtiums and other aphid repelling flowers that can also be added to salads. Yum! Just keep them away from your tomatoes.
For the Table
Its deep bottle green shiny foliage looks majestic in any plot and should be a resident crop for your winter table. Kale also tastes as robust as it looks and is great with liver and bacon and should be thrown into every lamb stew and casserole.
All these nutrients can get greatly reduced with too much boiling so it’s best served raw in smoothies or lightly steamed as an ultimate portion of veg. Steaming is a great way to preserve many of the benefits of kale. Steaming helps the fiber content of kale stick to bile much longer in the digestive tract which in turn helps lower cholesterol. Better still just whizz up handfuls in your blender and gulp down a power packed smoothie.
The whole brassica oleracea family was originally bred by humans from wild cabbage.
Kale – selection for leaves
Cabbage – selection for terminal buds
Kohlrabi – selection for stem
Broccoli – selection for stems and flowers
Brussels – selection for lateral buds
Cauliflower – selection for flower clusters