Garden to Table: Kale

Loaded with nutrients, including beta carotene and vitamin C, kale is good…and good for you.
Winterbor, Redbor, Dwarf Curled Vates, Lacinato kale

‘Kale Blend’

Get your flavonoid-packed greens fresh from the windowsill with this hearty kale mix. The blend contains the classic varieties frilly ‘Winterbor,’ reddish-pink ‘Redbor,’ and blue ‘Dwarf Curled Vates.’ Heirloom ‘Lacinato’ kale, also known as Tuscan or dinosaur kale, completes the mix.

Photo by: Burpee


Ancient, nutritious, beautiful kale: few plants make us ponder the relationship between species as they develop and evolve more than kale. Once, several thousands of years ago in Asia there was something called a wild kale. This plant, a leafy green, came west with travelers and ended up wild and native in Europe and the Mediterranean. Slowly, through cultivation, selection and isolation, one plant became many. We know them as broccoli, kohlrabi, kale, collards and cabbage. Each an individual, like five beautiful daughters in a strong, closely-knit family.  The relation is recognizable, and makes their own individual expression all the more remarkable.

In the Southeast, where we farm, collards are fraught with a loaded cultural message. As is cabbage — a stinky, poor-people’s food, which in the worst and stinkiest cases is preserved (sauerkraut, kimchee). Kale was also traditionally preserved with salt and left to ferment. Like collards, but unlike the other, single-forming sisters, it has leaves that can be almost continuously harvested. Not unlike collards or cabbage, the nutritionally dense, cold-hardy, easy-growing, constantly yielding kale became associated with poverty and making the most of very little. Kale was so commonly grown in the British Isles, in the 18th and 19th centuries in Scotland, the “kailyard” became a pejorative label used to categorize those writers and poets who romanticized country life at that time.

Pejorative labels notwithstanding, there does seem to be such a thing as native wisdom. Kale, and her sisters, are among the most phyto-nutrient dense vegetables that exist, and thus one of the healthiest things you can eat. There is an innate satisfaction that comes from growing and eating any food, but organically grown kale is one of the most satisfying that has ever existed for us. It makes us ponder that essential food question: Which came first? Are kale and her sisters such a huge part of agriculture because they are so nutritionally dense and dauntlessly yielding? Or did humans cause those qualities to exist through selection and cultivation? Either way, you can’t regret eating something this historical, delicious and good for you.—Joe and Judith

Varieties Grown

Red Russian Kale, Lacinato Kale, Siberian Kale.

Seed Source

What I’m Wearing

From the light-green, frilled collar leaf point to deeply purple-spined and boldly oak-leafed, or oblong, unbroken or deep blue-green — like algae in the distant waters of the sea — kale is endlessly textured.

Tasting Notes

Trust your instincts and eat a lot of this sulfurous leaf. The darker the color, the greater the good will be. Packing an arsenal of minerality and a grown-up sweetness, this delicious leaf will brighten and enrich any meal.

How to Grow

  • We typically start with young bedding plants grown in the greenhouse for spring or fall planting here in the South. Direct sowing is also an option. In cooler summer climates, kale can be grown all year long.
  • Be sure to plant young seedlings deep enough, but carefully, so as not to bury the emergence of the new leaves in the heart of the plant.
  • We typically plant kale plants 12” apart in the row and 6” between the rows.
  • Like all leafy vegetables, kale has a high nitrogen demand from the soil. We typically use feather or alfalfa meal to fertilize. Additionally, kale’s robustness benefits from a full range of available minerals and micronutrients, which can be supplied with kelp meal or SEA-90, a product derived from dried sea salts.
  • We cultivate our young plants weekly to keep the weeds down until the leaves make a shaded canopy over the row.
  • Kale, like other nitrogen-hungry members of the Brassica family are susceptible to insect pests, such as aphids, which are herded by ants, or caterpillars, which are the larvae of beautiful butterflies and moths. Weekly scouting will give you an idea of the severity of the problem.
  • Keep outer leaves picked to encourage the plant to continue producing leaves instead of moving into a reproductive phase.

The spinach of 2012, it’s hard not to notice that kale is currently hot stuff. And why not? Loaded with nutrients, including beta carotene and Vitamin C, kale is good…and good for you. One of the more fun ways to load up on all that good stuff, swap out potato chips with some healthy Kale Chips from Food Network Magazine. But don’t stop there.  Try Guy Fieri’s citrusy Crispy Kale Chips with Lemon. A Lemon Mayonnaise makes a great accompaniment. Or how about Ellie Krieger’s smoked-paprika laced Smoky Kale Chips.

So go out there and get your crunch on with these delicious twists on tired old chips. Check out FN Dish for even more great kale chip recipes.

In this Garden to Table feature, farmer-bloggers Judith Winfrey and Joe Reynolds offer their tips for sowing, growing and harvesting. And then we kick it over to FN Dish for some delicious recipes using this seasonal produce.

Next Up

Kudos for Kale: Why You Need it in Your Garden

This delicious, trendy and healthful green is a must for any vegetable garden.

Kale Yes! One Leafy Green's Many Merits

A doctor and chef team up to bring out the sexy side of kale.

A Love Letter to Lacinato Kale

This hearty garden green has won one gardener's heart.

Dig In: Kale Mayonnaise

Toast the health benefits of kale with this great bread spread.

Chocolate Kale Fudge Pop

Don’t give these fiber-rich frozen treats the cold shoulder.

Can You Freeze Kale?

Freezing kale opens the door to quick green smoothies and tasty side dishes. Learn how to preserve this nutrient-packed green.

Kale Salad Recipe

The Asheville farm to table restaurant Posana makes a Manchego kale salad that inspires great swooning devotion from its regulars.

Pumpkin and Kale Soup

Two fall favorites come together in this smooth and spicy seasonal soup recipe.

Red Kale Stew

Savory comfort food combined with nutritious greens means a win-win.

Kale Chips Are Nutritious-Meets-Delicious

Whip up this trendy, healthy snack with kale from your garden.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

What's New in Outdoors


Home Town

7am | 6c

Home Town

8am | 7c

Home Town

9am | 8c

Home Town

10am | 9c

Home Town

11am | 10c

Home Town

12pm | 11c

Home Town

1pm | 12c

Home Town

2pm | 1c

Home Town

3pm | 2c

Home Town

4pm | 3c

Home Town

5pm | 4c

Home Town

6pm | 5c

Home Town

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Home Town

8pm | 7c

Home Town

9pm | 8c

Home Town

10pm | 9c

Home Town

11pm | 10c

Home Town

12am | 11c

Home Town

1am | 12c

Home Town

2am | 1c

Home Town

2:59am | 1:59c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.