Kale has all the good nutritional qualities of its close relative, broccoli, but each plant produces a lot more food. This is because we eat the kale plant's leaves, not its flowers (as we do with broccoli). Kale plants are large, vigorous and not the least bit fussy. Though kale isn't everyone's favorite vegetable, once you grow it yourself, chances are good that it will rocket toward the top of your list.
Kale grows well in cool soil and doesn't mind cold weather. In fact, many people feel the flavor gets even better in early winter after the leaves have gone through several hard frosts. Kale is a moderate feeder and needs no more than compost and a little organic fertilizer. Kale can be started by seed in the garden six weeks before the last frost. The seeds will germinate even in soil that is only 45 degrees F. You can also start a few seeds indoors to get a jump on the season. It takes about three months to get full-sized plants. Gardeners in the south should plant collards in late summer for a fall or winter crop.\n\nKale prefers soil that is moist and cool. You can provide these ideal conditions by mulching around your plants with shredded leaves, newspapers or straw. Water during dry spells.
You can start harvesting in late summer by cutting off a few of the bottom leaves with a knife and gradually working your way up the strong, tall stem. If you don't do this, the lower leaves eventually get too big and tough to be pleasant for eating. When preparing mature leaves for cooking, it's best to slice out and discard the coarse midrib.
Kale freezes well for winter use. Plunge leaves into boiling water for a minute or so, then cool quickly under cold water or in a pan of ice water. Drain, pat the leaves dry and freeze them in plastic freezer bags. It's OK to for the leaves to be frozen whole as they're easy to chop while frozen. Kale is available in green, blue-green and purple varieties. This item is a mix of colors. Some are curly-leafed and some flat-leafed. The leaves of the purple or purple-veined varieties are pretty and long-lasting in flower arrangements.
Direct seed about three months before expected fall frost. Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep, 1 inch apart in rows 18 to 30 inches apart. Thin to 12- to 18-inch spacings. Eat or transplant thinnings. Similar to cabbage and other cole crops, you can also set out transplants in spring 4 to 6 weeks before average last frost, 12 inches apart, rows 18 to 24 inches apart.