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Kale 101

Kale 101

Kale is one of Earth’s many super-foods and has been getting a lot of attention in recent history. It is believed that kale can contribute significantly to improving overall health in a variety of ways. Not to mention, it’s delicious and easy to grow yourself.

Read on to discover exactly what is so great about kale and how you can incorporate it into your life now.

Benefits of Kale

Like many leafy green vegetables, kale is low-calorie and low-fat but rich in fiber, iron, vitamin K, and other vitamins and minerals. In fact, it even has more iron per calorie than a serving of beef.

The vitamin K, carotenoids, and flavonoids found in this veggie also make it a great cancer-fighting and prevention tool.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in kale, which helps reduce inflammation throughout the body.

It is also rich in vitamins A and C. Vitamin A helps protect your eyesight and contributes to healthy skin, while vitamin C also contributes to glowing skin and supports your immune system.

Many people are not aware that kale is also extremely rich in calcium. In fact, it has more calcium per calorie than milk. Calcium helps protect our bones and prevent osteoporosis, which is especially important as we age.

Like all things, too much of a good thing is NOT a good thing. Although it is indeed a superfood with many health benefits, that doesn’t mean it provides all of the health benefits the body needs.

Also, it definitely doesn’t mean you should start a kale-only cleanse. Make sure you implement it into a well-rounded, balanced diet.

How to Use Kale

Now that you’re aware of kale’s many benefits, you probably want to start incorporating it into your diet. It’s not exactly the best vegetable enjoyed on its own, so you will want some tips on how to eat it.

You can add it to your salad, but you’ll want to slice it very thin before tossing it in. It can be very bitter raw, so pair it with other vegetables and a citrus-y dressing.

One of the easiest and most common ways to utilize kale is by adding it to your smoothie. Just toss in a handful before you add your berries, banana, or whatever else you may enjoy in your smoothie.

Most people serve kale boiled, much like spinach. This makes it very easy to serve and eat, and you can still top it with some nuts or bacon if you’d like to make it fancier.

Grilling kale is another excellent option for eating this green; drizzle the leaves with olive oil and sprinkle on some salt and pepper, then lay on the grill just long enough to brown; flip and repeat. Grilling kale gives it a nice crispy texture.

Similarly, if you dress up your kale with olive oil, salt, and pepper again but toss it into the oven this time for about 10 minutes, you’ll end up with some delicious, crispy kale chips. These make for a great snack or garnish.

Kale can also play a supporting role in your soups. Because it is strong and sturdy, it won’t fall apart when you add it to your chicken gnocchi soup (or any soup of your choice).

For the same reasons, this vegetable is also great in a pasta dish as it won’t overcook and get all stringy like some other leafy greens. It pairs great with a salty component, such as spicy sausage, and cavatappi noodles.

Growing Kale

So now that you’re obsessed with kale, you’ll likely want to grow your own so that you always have a consistent organic supply. Fortunately, growing kale is pretty easy, especially if you follow these steps.

> Preparing the Growing Space

You’ll need a little bit of space in a garden bed or somewhere in your backyard. If you don’t have a yard, a sturdy container (at least 12-inches in diameter) will also suffice. You will want to plan it out so that it will produce before the full heat of summer hits.

Also, identify where you will plant it; at the very least the plant will need partial sun (and full sun if you live in a cooler climate) to thrive.

If planting in the garden, be sure to keep it away from beans, strawberries, or tomatoes as those plants have a tendency to inhibit kale’s growth.

A mature kale plant will get about two feet tall and will spread out to as much as three feet wide; so make sure you plant it in a location where it will have ample room to grow.

> Planting

You can start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost, and then transplant the seedlings when there is no longer a risk of freezing at night.

If you opt to start them indoors, your seedlings should be ready for harvest about 30-40 days after transplantation. If you start the seeds in-ground, expect mature plants between 60-70 days.

You can plant more seeds in the fall, about 6-8 weeks before the first anticipated frost. You can continue harvesting and planting throughout the winter.

Kale does not enjoy the heat, so really the only time you cannot (or at least should not) plant kale seeds or seedlings in the height of summer.

> Harvesting

You will know that it’s time to harvest your kale crop when the leaves are about the size of an average adult hand.

  • Simply pick the leaves straight off the stem, starting outwards and working your way in.
  • Leave a few of the smaller leaves on the stem so that you will have another crop to harvest in about a week or so.
  • While harvesting, remove any dead, bug-eaten, or rotten leaves and toss them in your compost.

Other Helpful Tips

Make sure your kale is always well-watered to keep the roots from drying up. Covering the ground with mulch can help retain water and also maintain a healthy temperature for the roots.

You should fertilize the soil every 6-8 weeks with a wholesome compost that will slowly release nutrients all season long.

Clearly, kale should become your new best friend. It’s easy to grow, offers tremendous health benefits, and can be incorporated into most of your meals. If you haven’t jumped on the kale train yet, what are you waiting for?

Sasha Brown

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