Kale is Cooler than Broccoli

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Cool Kale

Our Local Foods and Small Farms Educator, Bill Davison, says "kale is at least 30-40 percent cooler than broccoli. The reasoning behind this prevailing statement is the ease in which it is grown and how ornamental it can be", explains University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

Kale is a cool-weather crop in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi. It is harvested for its leaves and can be planted in early spring or late summer for abundant fall harvesting. It has large, colorful leaves and grows three to four feet tall.

Kale can be grown from seed or transplants. Seed can be started indoors in early April and transplants can be ready in five weeks. It is best to harden the seedlings by gradually placing them outside in full sun. Transplants can be planted, leaving 18 to 24 inches between plants. Kale will benefit from adding compost before planting and a layer of mulch to conserve moisture. Kale should be grown in full sun. The outer leaves should be harvested while they are tender, leaving the plant looking like a palm tree.

Davison's favorite cultivar is 'Lacinato Rainbow,' for its vigorous, curly, dark leaf with pink veins and greater cold hardiness. He has stocked the Normal Seed Library with the seeds so he can share with members of a growing gardening community.

Kale should be planted again in the late summer to early fall for a second crop. In fact, the taste of kale is better after a light frost.

Cabbage worms and flea beetles are avid pests of this leafy green but can be avoided by using floating row covers found in garden shops. Floating row covers and frost cloths can cover the young tender crops of any vegetable for the first four to six weeks. It allows penetrating of the sun and water without letting in insects that may lay eggs or cause feeding damage. Cover the crop with a light, permeable fabric and weight down with bricks or rocks.

Kale Chips

Our Nutrition Educator, Jenna Smith likes kale because it has vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. It can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in stir-fries and soups. She shares a recipe for popular kale chips that are loved by children. Davison says the cultivars with curly leaves make the best chips.

1 large bunch fresh kale

Optional seasonings: Salt and pepper, garlic powder and/or red pepper flakes

¼ cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse kale and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove the stalks from the kale and discard. Tear the leaves slightly larger than chip-size pieces (they will shrink).

Place the kale into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Add the seasonings and toss to coat evenly.

Arrange the leaves on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and place in oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp. Remove immediately and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Cool slightly and serve.

Yield: 3-4 cups of chips

Nutritional analysis per ½ cup serving: 70 calories, 7 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 120 milligrams sodium, 2 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram dietary fiber, 1 gram protein