Kale isn’t just a superfood for your body; it’s a superstar in your garden. Not only is it a breeze to grow, but it’s also a biennial, meaning it can grace your garden for two whole years. The beauty of kale lies in the fact that the more you pluck its leaves, the more it thrives!
There are various kale varieties to choose from, whether it’s the prehistoric appearance of dinosaur kale or the frilly leaves of curly kale. The good news is that the harvesting process is similar for all.
Determining the Right Time to Harvest Kale
Kale leaves are primed for harvesting when the plant reaches about 12 inches in height, and the outer leaves are approximately the length of your hand. This stage typically arrives 50 to 55 days after sowing kale seeds. When you introduce kale into your garden, mark your calendar for harvest time around seven weeks in the future.
For the finest flavor, harvest kale leaves during the warmer months when they are still young, as mature leaves may turn bitter in the heat.
Frequency of Kale Harvesting
To encourage optimal kale production and maintain garden health, it’s essential to make regular visits to your garden and harvest kale leaves about once or twice a week as soon as they reach a suitable size. This practice serves three vital purposes:
- It stimulates the plant to generate more leaves.
- It acts as a deterrent against pests.
- It contributes to the overall well-being of your garden.
Harvesting Kale Leaves for Abundant Growth
Although it may seem counterintuitive, harvesting kale leaves actually promotes the growth of new leaves. Pruning and harvesting convey your intentions to the plant, and by plucking a few leaves, you’re essentially saying, “Please produce more of these!”
Utilizing Kale Harvests as a Pest Deterrent
Frequent leaf removal, particularly of older leaves, assists in pest control. Regular harvesting ensures that older leaves aren’t enticing pests to invade your garden space. If pests are already present, they tend to infest the older leaves, making harvesting an effective method of pest management.
Sustaining Garden Health Through Frequent Harvesting
Consistent kale harvesting also guarantees that neighboring plants receive the necessary resources. If you employ a dense planting method like intensive gardening, it’s imperative to harvest and prune regularly to ensure that every plant receives adequate sunlight and airflow. Without these measures, kale plants can grow exuberantly, overshadowing other plants and monopolizing essential resources.
If you notice that some plants require more space, it’s a sign to use needle-nose pruners to trim leaves that are casting shade on inner plants.
The Cut-and-Come-Again Technique for Harvesting Kale
Harvesting kale without harming the plant involves employing the same approach recommended for other leafy greens: the cut-and-come-again method. Start by targeting the oldest, exterior leaves closest to the plant’s base. These are typically the largest and most mature leaves. Employ needle-nose pruners to cut the stems as close to the base as possible. Alternatively, you can gently twist the leaves to break them off at their base.
An optimal strategy is to harvest around four leaves from each plant at a time, adhering to the golden rule of not harvesting more than one-third of a plant simultaneously. After harvesting from a plant, allow it to grow for a couple of weeks before returning for additional leaves, which sprout from the plant’s center. This entire process requires no more than 30 to 40 seconds when harvesting from multiple kale plants.
Addressing Kale Leaves with Holes
Encountering kale leaves with holes is a common occurrence and not cause for alarm. These holes indicate the presence of pests attempting to beat you to the nutritious leaves. Remove any leaves with holes and check the undersides for visible pests, which can be eliminated manually. Pests tend to target older, outer leaves, so the fresher leaves in the center of the plant typically remain hole-free. Surprisingly, these leaves are more nutrient-rich due to their defensive response against attackers. Don’t waste the hole-ridden leaves; wash them and incorporate them into your meals for added nutrition.
Ideas for Utilizing Your Kale Harvest
Make the most of your freshly harvested kale leaves with these culinary suggestions:
1. Kale Smoothies: Start your day with a green smoothie featuring kale. Experiment with various pairings like apple, avocado, carrot, cabbage, celery, chard, lemon, orange, spinach, and sweet potato for diverse flavors.
2. Kale Chips: Satisfy your craving for a crunchy, salty snack with homemade kale chips. They offer a healthier alternative to traditional potato chips and are simple to prepare.
3. Kale Salad: Consider preparing Joshua McFadden’s renowned kale salad, a family favorite for dinner.
Discover more delectable kale recipes from garden coach and health expert Dr. Laura Christine to make the most of your kale harvest.
Kale Harvests That Never Cease!
Harvesting kale is one of those gratifying garden moments that remind you why you embarked on this journey. The crisp, rustling sound of leaves as you pluck them from the plant is a symphony of nature that keeps you planting more kale. Combine this sensory delight with the numerous culinary applications kale offers, and you have a winning combination.
Here’s to a bountiful kale harvest that keeps on giving in your garden!