We call it “winter kale” because kale is happiest in the colder weather of fall, winter and early spring. We love to grow (and eat) winter kale. It extends our tiny garden into cold weather. An urban garden that works year round make the best use of a tiny space. You earn a higher yield of vegetables per square foot. We work our little back yard pretty hard, and winter kale is a reliable crop that keeps us eating hyper locally all winter long.
Like all plants, kale really slows down its growth in winter. You must give it a head start if you want it to winter over. This part can be tricky. Even winter kale needs some warmth to get started, but it doesn’t like too much heat. Plant it while the weather is still warm enough to sprout the seeds, but cool enough for kale to be happy. For us in Virginia this is early to mid October.
But our summer plants like tomatoes and peppers are still producing like mad into the late fall. We don’t want to rip those up too soon. To get winter kale started you have a few options:
You could just leave winter kale out there and let it fend for itself. It’s pretty hardy, especially in warmer climates. But we like to give ours a little added protection because we end up getting more kale. There are a few cozy options for this:
* Mulch the kale with crunched-up leaves. This blankets the leaves, and adds nutrition as the leaves break down. Snow cover will add some extra insulation.
Wait for a day when the temperature rises above freezing to harvest kale. Otherwise the plant’s watery cells are frozen and the leaves will wilt. They need to warm up to recover. You can either pull off some leaves here and there during the winter, or wait until the plants get a little growth spurt in spring.
Chef Iggy cooks either kale or collards about once a week, and has some tasty go-to recipes like this Southern Braised Kale with Onions. Sometime we only have a small harvest, or a leaf here and there. We cut it it into julienne and add to a potato hash or a flavorful bean soup. Trim the leaves and keep them fresh for a week or two in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. Enjoy this fresh treat from the winter garden!Follow us on Twitter!