I love experimenting in the garden. That’s why I enjoy the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog so much. I’m amazed by the vast array of plants that I’ve never heard of. Reading the descriptions, comparing, and picking out a few new things to try helps me survive the bleakest months of winter. Having said that, though, I’m trying to develop a list of my own favorites – plants that are dependable, productive, and of course…tasty!
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Baker Creek’s description for Tronchuda Kale claimed that it was more heat tolerant than other types and I’ve found that to be true, at least this year. We had a fairly mild summer, and although the plants slowed down with the warmer weather, they were fairly healthy despite fending off cabbage worms. I planted seeds in my raised beds in the spring. The plants lived through the summer and started to revive again when the cooler temperatures arrived.
Tronchuda, also known as Portuguese Kale, has a flatter leaf than other varieties which have more wrinkled ones. I think I prefer the texture of these smoother leaves, and they’re a little easier to work with when preparing them, too.
Kale is one of the most challenging crops I grow, mainly because of the battle with my enemies, the cabbage worms. I’ve tried different methods, but I happened on a product that has really made a difference, and that is Captain Jack’s Deadbug . I have to reapply it after it rains, but it has really helped me to harvest some beautiful leaves.
When to Grow
Kale is a cool-weather plant, so in my area (zone 6b) I can grow it both spring and fall. Like I said above, it endured the summer this year so I didn’t need to replant it, but I’m not sure if that will always be the case. Our summers vary, and can be pretty brutal. It takes about 85 days to mature.
Why to Grow
Kale has many nutritional benefits that make it worth growing. Referred to as a “Super Food,” it’s low carb and low fat, but very high in nutrients. There are many ways to work kale into your diet. Think smoothies, soups, dehydrated “chips,” and salads. Kale: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts.
I use the cut-and-come-again method. I harvest the middle-sized leaves, leaving the small ones to grow larger, and the large or tattered ones for the plant. You don’t want to take too many, maybe a third, but the plant will continue to produce new leaves over the course of the growing season. You don’t need to harvest the whole plant. Like mentioned above, I’ve been able to harvest kale for an extended period, from spring through fall, although its growth was slower during the summer.
I usually blanch it and freeze it in quart-sized freezer bags if I’m not going to prepare it right away. I’m also starting to experiment with dehydrating it. If you’re going to refrigerate it to use soon, it’ll keep better if you wait and wash it right before you use it. To clean, I submerge the leaves in a sink full of cool water and gently swish it around a little to flush out dirt and bugs. As I transfer the leaves to a colander I look for any cabbage moth eggs or larvae. If the leaves were real dirty, I might rinse them a second time in new water, but that isn’t usually necessary. I use the chiffonade method to cut the leaves. If the stem/midrib is large and tough then I remove it, otherwise I don’t.
Kale should be blanched for 2 1/2 minutes according to online guides. I usually do it for three minutes, though. Blanching is a simple process of briefly boiling/steaming the greens to stop enzyme action. The greens are then transferred to a bowl filled with ice water to cool, drained well and put into a container for storage. I use Hefty freezer storage bags, press out the air and lay flat to freeze. If you’re going to use it for smoothies you could freeze it into cubes using an ice cube tray and then transfer to baggies.
There are many uses for kale, but this is the recipe I use most often. I start by dicing some bacon. How much depends on how much kale I’m cooking, but maybe a strip per quart-sized baggie. I dice it and put it in a pot over medium to start cooking. I dice an onion quickly by using my Vidalia Chop Wizard and add that. When it becomes translucent, I add a few cups of water and a teaspoon or so of chicken bouillion. (I use Better Than Bouillion) Then I add the kale. My secret ingredient is Nasturtium Vinegar that I make in the Spring. You can use apple cider vinegar in its place, though, maybe a tablespoon or two. I don’t measure it, it’s one “bloop.” Add salt and pepper to taste. Kale needs to cook approximately 30 minutes.
Greens are a great addition to your garden. They have long growing seasons and can even grow in partial shade. All varieties of kale are worth growing, but Tronchuda is going on my “Favorites” list.
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Tronchuda Kale from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
I’ve never grown kale, but I do like it. If you juice, kale is a nice addition….makes a beautiful green juice.
Kale is “hot” (trendy) right now so it’s pretty pricey in the store. It’s definitely worth trying to grow your own. I’m not much of a juicer type. I prefer eating the whole food.
That looks delicious!! Oh my! We love growing greens, this one will be a new addition in the spring.
I hope it works as well for you as it does for me. You might consider trying the Captain Jack’s Deadbug, too. Those cabbage moths are hard to fend off.