If you’re a fan of leafy greens with staying power then you might want to consider getting acquainted with kale. A member of the cabbage family, kale has made appearances as a garnish on many dinner plates only to be discarded and ignored, but the fact of the matter is that kale has a plethora of nutrition benefits that have brought it into the spotlight in recent years. Kale is low in calories while at the same time being loaded with protein, fiber, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamins A, C, and K. Additionally, kale contains nutrients that help with eye health, such as lutein and zeaxanthin which fight cataracts and macular degeneration. Overall kale is a good, healthy addition to most diets. The only exception is for those with thyroid issues as it can have an impact on thyroid function if too much is consumed. Should this apply to you, contact your doctor for more information.

Because of its many benefits, kale is a good choice for the veggie garden. In order to grow kale, there are a few steps that should be followed. First of all, it is important to remember that kale grows best in cool weather. Because of this, it is best to only start seeds indoors in areas where temperature can be regulated to remain below 75 degrees. Growing kale in higher temperatures results in a bitter tasting plant, so sowing sees before the last frost is recommended. For those plants started inside, they can be transplanted upon reaching a height of 5 or more inches. They should then be placed approximately a foot apart in your garden in order for each to have room to grow.

Upon moving kale to your outdoor garden, it will be important to keep roots cool and damp. In order to achieve this, you will need to adjust your watering based on your home climate, but usually every few days is adequate. Kale will need to be kept as cool as possible as well as free of pests. This can be easier said than done as kale is appetizing to not only insects but also furry creatures such as rabbits. Adding a fence may be necessary to protect kale as is picking dead leaves in order to enable the plant to thrive. Since the ideal time for harvest is based on the type of kale you grow, be sure to consult seed packets for the type you plant. Leaving kale in the garden too long can result in the same bitterness that occurs when plants become too warm.  The best leaves for consumption are those that are crisp and dark in color.

Once you have a successful kale crop under your belt, it is time to decide how you’d like to use it. Kale is excellent in many forms and recipes varying from kale chips to kale smoothies. Depending on your taste, you may wish to include kale in soups or pasta dishes. Kale is even delicious in salads. Kale can be eaten raw, baked, or sautéed so the options for its use are as diverse as your pallet and imagination. Whatever your preparation method of choice, kale is something we can all enjoy and that no garden should be without.