In the Garden:
New England
March, 2013
Regional Report

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Not only is kale super-nutritious, it's one of the most attractive vegetables you can grow.

Grow-- and Eat -- More Kale!

Does your vegetable garden take center-stage in your backyard? Or perhaps you tuck edibles in among your flowers throughout your landscape. Maybe your deck is your garden, with containers stationed for easy access. Whatever your gardening style, you're no doubt striving for good looks as well as good taste and good nutrition from your harvest. The perfect vegetable to give you all three -- kale, of course!

Nutritional Powerhouse
This sturdy green is always at the top of the list of the most nutritious veggies, full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. It's easier to grow than most of its cabbage family relatives, being less troubled by the many pests that afflict this clan, and its cold hardiness lets you plant early in the spring and harvest late into the fall, even into the winter months if you give it some protection.

Kale's robust texture makes it perfect for soups, stews, and braising; it doesn't fall apart when cooked the way more tender greens like spinach can. The baby leaves are excellent in salads. But even the mature leaves can make tender, tasty salads if you give them a massage.

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Rub
Yes, you read that right! Massaging mature kale leaves breaks down their cellulose, causing them to wilt and become silky, rather than rubbery, and takes away their bitter edge. Remove the tough central rib, toss leaves with a little lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt, then rub them together vigorously for two or three minutes, until they turn limp and their color changes to deep green. Sounds weird, but tastes great! Massaged kale will keep in the frig for several days in a sealed container.

Looking Good
As for looks, kale is the belle of the vegetable garden ball. Blue-green curled kale is as lovely as a bouquet; lacy-leaved 'Red Russian' provides color and texture; lacinato, also called Tuscan or dinosaur kale, has long, puckered leaves that are especially tender; 'Beira', with wide, collard-like leaves, is traditional in Portuguese kale soup; deep red-purple 'Redbor' makes an eye-catching garnish. Whether grown alone or along with other veggies or flowers, kale is a visual feast.

Planting Pointers
For the earliest harvest, start kale indoors 8-10 weeks before your last frost date; set out hardened off seedlings four weeks before the last frost. For a continued harvest, sow seeds directly in the garden when you set your transplants out. For a fall crop, sow seeds 10-12 weeks before your fall frost date and harvest after frost has sweetened the leaves. Row covers will help keep pests like caterpillars and aphids at bay.

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