Since we first started growing vegetables we’ve grown kale. Usually the curly variety but last year we tried a rape kale variety too – namely Ragged Jack.
I was therefore slightly bemused when talking to some pig farming friends about veg and they looked horrified when I said we grew and loved to eat kale “mam used to grow that for the pigs years ago, can’t imagine eating it”….
Well I’m delighted to say that you can! And it comes into its own at this time of the year.
It’s extremely hardy, surviving harsh conditions that send Brussels sprouts gooey and broccoli limp, and like parsnips it tastes better for a good frost. We’ve been picking leaves from this year’s crop since August, and all being well expect to right through to April or May.
|30 November 2010|
Kale is in the Brassica family and you’ll sometimes see it referred to as Borecole.
One of our daughter’s hates it, preferring Calabrese, the other loves it, hating Calabrese so we have all angles covered if we grow both.
It’s hard to describe the flavour… it has a stronger flavour than Calabrese – more cabbagey. My hubby describes it as “a veg you know is doing you good when you eat it – irony without the bitterness”. I guess that’s because it’s full of vitamins – especially vitamin C and iron.
So how do you prepare it for the table?
First of all don’t just grow one plant, grow several and pick a few leaves off all the plants rather than stripping one bare. Cut the centre of each plant first to encourage fresh side-shoots.
On a day-to-day basis I just strip the leaves from the harder stalk, steam the chopped stalks first before adding the leaves for about 15 minutes. Kale can be stir fried too, or added to curries.
Alternatively, the smaller, more delicate leaves can be eaten raw and added to a crisp winter salad, but it’s more usual to cook them.
Colcannon (sometimes known as Kailkenny) is a Celtic dish that traditionally uses kale, although many people now substitute it for cabbage. It’s delicious served with roast or grilled meat dishes. To make it you’ll need the following:
approx 400g kale
1 chopped onion
approx 400g mashed potato
50g melted butter
salt and pepper to taste
|Strip the leaves from the stalk|
Shred the leaves from the stalk (the midrib) and wash in cold, running water. (In the late summer/autumn months take special care to wash out any hidden caterpillars). Steam the leaves in a steamer for about 15 minutes, or if you don’t have one, place them in a pan of boiling water and cook for a similar time, adding salt to taste.
Drain thoroughly then chop the kale finely with a sharp knife.
Whilst the kale is cooking, place the chopped onion in a pan with the milk, boil then remove from the heat, cover and infuse until the kale has finished cooking.
Blend the mashed potatoes and kale together in a pan over gentle heat and add enough of the milk and onion mixture to give the consistency of creamy potatoes.
So how do you grow it?
It’s very easy to grow… just sow the seeds directly into well-drained alkaline soil that was manured for a previous crop. For Kale sow in April and Rape Kale in July.
The easiest way is to sow the seeds where they’re to grow, spacing them about 60cm (2ft) apart, sowing a few extra in case slugs eat some of the seedlings. Alternatively sow them in a seed bed 5cm apart and transplant them to their final place once there’s space.
Hoe often to keep weeds down and protect from slugs and caterpillars, which are their main pests along with cabbage root fly.
When the plants start to flower, pull them up and compost them.