Kale: How To Grow, Harvest & Cook Them

Sales of this fibrous brassica have been steadily increasing for years now as consumers have started to clock on to the veritable bounty of nutrients that it provides. One serving of kale contains 3g of protein, vitamins A, C and K, not to mention B vitamins and plenty of fibre too. The flavour of kale is not too dissimilar to spinach and can be boiled, dehydrated to create an Asian seaweed alternative or even blitzed into a smoothie.

Kale plants are easy to manage and generous in their yields whether you’re growing them in a pot, container or a raised bed – just make sure you take the necessary precautions of protecting them from potential pests…

Where are you going to grow your plants?

You have a few options when it comes to where to grow your kale. Considering that three or four plants can give you enough kale to feed a small family on a weekly basis, you won’t need to portion off much space for your new plant. If you’re looking to grow a handful of plants then you’ll only need a square metre spare in your allotment or garden to get the job done. Kale is just as happy growing in pots, so if you’re short on space or prefer to grow inside then you can do this instead.

When growing inside you’ll need to start with a seed tray (make sure you buy one with drainage holes) for the first month or so, before you move on to pots which should be around 12 inches deep and wide. Make sure to buy a bag of growing soil (potting soil does not drain quite as well so avoid using this) before you start and if you can’t find a spot in your home with enough sunlight you should think about purchasing grow lights.

Sowing

Whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors you’ll be starting off growing in seed trays. In March-June (if growing outdoors) sow your seeds thinly in the moistened compost-filled trays, 2-3 seeds per compartment works well. Cover over the seeds with compost and moisten once more if it looks dry, then you can pop the lid on or cover with a plastic bag to let it germinate. The seeds will need to stay consistently warm in order to germinate, so keep that in mind when storing them. Keep them moist over the next few weeks, after a month they should have sprouted into seedlings.

Once there are between 4-6 leaves on each of these seedlings you can move them into pots (or into your main bed). Prepare your bed or pot by filling with a mix of soil and compost (1:3) ensuring good drainage throughout. Dig a small hole with enough space in to accommodate your seedlings roots and then begin gently teasing out each seedling and inserting them into their new homes.

If growing outside make sure that your bed remains moist, you’ll need to be extra vigilant if you’re growing in pots. Kale can thrive in partial shade so don’t worry if they’re not receiving a full 8 hours of sunshine each day, 4 hours is good enough. If they’re not getting this then you can set up a grow light on a four-hour timer, just make sure to keep the plants at least 6 inches away from the bulbs.

Harvesting

Your kale plants will mature somewhere between 55 to 65 days, but you will need to prune your kale to prevent if from going to seed too early. Once your plants have have reached maturity you can start harvesting! You’ll be able to cut off new leaves every few days, cut the leaves at the base of the stem to prevent damaging the plant in the long term.

Unless kale is already a staple in your diet you might find that you’re a little overwhelmed with the amount of yield you’re harvesting. Kale grows more bitter the longer you leave it, so unless you plan on eating it everyday you can freeze it for a later date in bags or blitz it in processor and freeze it in a muffin tray to create handy kale purée blocks! Jamie has some fantastic recipe ideas over on his site right here.