In my younger days, I was not a big fan of salads and whenever I observed someone eating one, I was afraid that there was a horse going hungry.
My attitude has changed in recent years as I have developed a deep appreciation for kale.
Kale is as easy to grow as radishes and provides healthy meals from late spring through some pretty hard frosts. The University of Minnesota Extension website says it doesn't do well in the heat but I have never experienced a decline in quality here in Bemidji. I start some in my electric hotbed in March to get an earlier start on the season and I eat kale from late June through September.
Kale is sometimes called leaf cabbage. It is related to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, kohlrabi and radish. Knowing these relationships can help you manage your kale crop if insects and diseases become a problem.
Kale scores 1,000 out of 1,000 on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, which is promoted by the popular celebrity doctor Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Kale is considered by many to be a superfood.
Humans have been growing kale for 6,000 years. Its reputation has gone through some tough years of unfavorability; vegetable books from the 1970s acknowledged its nutrition but downplayed its importance. During World War II, the British government promoted it heavily to an undernourished nation. It is quite popular today with health conscious people.
I don't have a favorite kale. This year I have five types of kale in my garden. Some were started in the hotbed and some have been planted directly in the soil. I made my selections based on the success of last year's crop. It includes kale of different colors, leaf shapes and textures. I am growing Vates, Lacinato, Darkibor, Red Russian and Scarlet.
There are chemicals that control the white cabbage moth larva, which is the only insect problem I have on kale, but Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring soil bacteria, is also an effective biological control. I am growing my cabbage and broccoli under a mosquito net this year to exclude them.
The best thing about kale is the eating. Kale can be put into a fruit smoothie and you will not know it is there. Kale can be incorporated into just about any Minnesota hot dish, soup, or even lasagna, adding greatly to the nutritional value.
I use most of my kale in salads. Remove the coarser stems, cut leaves into one inch squares, then wash and drain it thoroughly to remove some of the stronger tastes. Then I add some olive oil and massage it for a minute to remove any sharp textures. My basic garden kale salad includes about anything in the garden such as carrots, onions, beets, beans, radishes, turnips and asparagus. A protein can be added like sunflower or squash seeds or dried meat or grated cheese. A chopped fresh or dried fruit is nice also. Finish it with your favorite dressing. A vinaigrette is great.
Click on "Yard and Garden at the University of Minnesota Extension website -www.extension.umn.edu-for gardening information. Local Master Gardeners will respond to your questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916, leaving your name, number and question. Our Facebook page may also be of help to you: www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners/