Brenda lives in northern Virginia with her husband, daughter, and other various creatures who share their backyard wildlife habitat. Brenda became a Master Gardener in 2007, after attempting to put down roots in a yard filled with clay, stones, and poorly laid sod. Little by little, she and her family removed grass, amended soil, and replaced invasive weeds with native plants.

The family now grows vegetables in raised beds year-round. Brenda, who subsequently became a Master Food Volunteer, cooks mainly with seasonal ingredients from her garden, or from local farmers markets. She invites you to join her on her mission to build an eco-friendly habitat, grow organic food, and sustain the small plot of earth we each claim. Brenda shares her gardening, cooking, and beekeeping experiences at beehappygarden.com.

 

 

Grow and Eat Kale in Spring, Fall, and Winter
by Brenda Lynn - posted 05/21/15

Kale is one of the easiest crops to grow. It tolerates cold temperatures and survives all winter in my zone 7 garden. Despite record cold and snowfall this winter, kale is still standing strong in late May. A layer of straw mulch insulated it through winter, and in early March, the crinkly green leaves appeared once again. In some ways, we're fortunate to have had a cool, rainy spring. We're really getting the most out of cool season crops. Before digging under all that wonderful kale, why not put it to a last, good use?

Kale survives winter in Virginia gardens, given a layer of straw mulch.
If you didn't plant kale last fall or earlier in spring, you can plant some now, before temperatures warm up. Kale grows well in the shade this time of year, but if planted in full sun, it'll bolt as soon as temperatures consistently reach the low 80's. It's a lovely addition to ornamental potted arrangements. Pair it with other shade lovers, like impatiens and coleus. Kale also grows well indoors, in a sunny window, or under grow lights. Try several varieties for a colorful and tasty array. I planted "Red Russian," "Dwarf Blue Curled," and "Lacinato," all from Seed Savers Exchange. 
Kale bolts when temperatures heat up.
Unlike store-bought kale, which loses nutritional value as well as texture the longer it sits on the shelf,  home-grown kale remains crisp and full of vitamins A, C, calcium, and iron. Pick it just before using to ensure the freshest, healthiest flavor. Kale can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. When grown at home, you don't need to tack on the time the kale spent traveling from to the grocery store and sitting on the shelf, nor do you have to worry about any pesticides. Kale is relatively disease and pest free.
 
Kale Recipes
 
Once kale is harvested, it's easy to find delicious recipes that last all week long:
  • toss it into soups and stews (lentil soup with kale is my favorite!);
  • make chips by rubbing baby kale leaves with olive oil and roasting them in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes; 
  • spruce up salad; or 
  • make a kale strata.
 
Here are two of my favorite recipes:
 
Kale Salad with Blueberries and Pine Nuts
 
Ingredients
  
1 lb kale (use baby leaves from Lacinato or Tuscan kale, or chop up full-grown leaves)
4 Scallions, white and green parts, chopped
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. orange juice
6 Tbsp. olive oil
2 teaspoons Honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup Athenos Fat Free feta
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
 
Directions
 
Prepare the Salad:  
Wash and dry kale leaves. If using full-size leaves, strip leaves from stems. Finely shred leaves and place in a large bowl. 
Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl.
Chop the green onions and add them to the bowl.
Mix the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, and honey. Add pepper to taste.
Mix vigorously to combine.
Add the crumbled feta cheese to the salad.
Add dressing to kale and toss to combine.
Mix in the pine nuts and blueberries.
 
Kale Strata
Kale Strata
 
Kale Strata combines leftover kale salad and whole-grain bread.
This is one of my favorite weekend breakfast recipes, because it uses both leftover kale salad from earlier in the week, and leftover bread. I usually make fresh bread on Sunday. By Friday evening, it's too stale for sandwiches, but it pairs beautifully with eggs for Saturday morning breakfast. 
Ingredients
4 large, Eggs
2 large, Eggs - White only
¼ cup skim milk
½ loaf wholegrain bread, or 3 cups cubed 
1/2 prepared Kale Salad with Blueberries and Pine Nuts
Instructions
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and eggwhites with the milk.
Chop the bread into ½ inch cubes.
Using an 8-inch square glass baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bread cubes evenly on the bottom. 
Add a layer of the kale salad.
Pour ½ of the egg mixture over the kale and bread cubes.
Add another layer of bread cubes, feta, and kale salad.
Pour ½ of the remaining egg mixture over the greens.
Add any remaining bread cubes, salad, and feta cheese, and pour the remaining eggs on top. 
Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate over night, or for 6-12 hours, to allow the egg to soak into the bread cubes. 
 
Baking Instructions
 
Remove the dish from the refrigerator. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes in the center rack of the oven, until Kale is crisp, eggs are solid, and bread cubes are browned around the edges. The dish should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. 
 
Brenda Lynn blogs about gardening, pollinators, and Virginia outdoor destinations at www.beehappygarden.com.
 

 

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