For the Fall Vegetable Garden, Think Kale

comments (0) August 12th, 2009

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Ruth Ruth Dobsevage, Web producer
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A row of White Russian kale thrives in the fall, when the stars of the summer garden have dimmed.
When they become a bit sturdier, these kale seedlings will be thinned. The thinnings are a tasty addition to salads and stir-fries.
Red Russian kale in the winter garden.
A row of White Russian kale thrives in the fall, when the stars of the summer garden have dimmed.Click To Enlarge

A row of 'White Russian' kale thrives in the fall, when the stars of the summer garden have dimmed.

Photo: Ruth Dobsevage

If you're looking for a robust, nutritious green that survives way past frost, consider planting some kale. It's rich in vitamins (especially A and C), minerals, and anti-oxidants, and its assertive flavor is perfect for fall dishes.

Commonly available varieties include 'Scotch' (with curly leaves), 'Lacinato' (with oval, elongated leaves), 'Red Russian' and 'White Russian' (with deeply indented leaves). If you can't find kale seeds locally, try Seed Savers Exchange, Pinetree Seeds, or Fedco Seeds.

For a fall harvest, I plant kale in midsummer, when a lettuce, garlic, or onion bed frees up. Kale grows best in full sun, but partial shade works, too, if that's what you have. In shallow furrows 6 to 8 inches apart, I plant a seed maybe every inch or two, then thin to about 6 inches apart once the plants are a couple of inches tall.

Kale takes roughly 60 days to mature fully, but plants needn't be picked then. Kale tastes best after a frost. In my southwest Connecticut garden (zone 6a), there are many years that I've harvested kale well into January.

Kale in the kitchen
To prepare kale as a side dish, I like to separate the leafy part from the tougher rib, then sauté the leaves in olive oil with sliced garlic. I also like to make a hearty soup, a version of Portuguese caldo verde, using onions, potatoes, navy beans, kale, sausage, and bouillon cubes. My recipe is adapted from The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors, by Jeff Smith. This year, I might try Kate Frank's recipe for Crispy Kale.


posted in: fall garden, greens

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