There are few plants that have taken the world by storm. It seems all of us want to eat the latest wonder food, packed full of antioxidants that promises anti-ageing and life giving benefits. I wonder how many people actually like eating it and can honestly say they enjoy the flavour? If you are one of the few who like the taste and are appalled at the prices that are being charged for this much sought after vegetable, it’s time to grow your own.
It’s a vegetable that’s so easy to grow – avoid the inflated prices at the supermarket with a packet of seeds or a punnet and grow in a large pot or in the garden. There are two types available. One is curly Kale which grows to 60cm tall and has very dark, frizzy tips. The other is Tuscan Kale or Cavolo Nero which is very popular for Mediterranean dishes and which can get up to 80cm tall.
These plants grow very well in a pot on a balcony or in a small spaced garden but make sure the pot is a big one, at least 30cm deep, as they are quite tall. Use a premium potting mix for container growing and, if growing in the ground, add lots of manure and compost as they are very heavy feeders. If they start to look a little pale, they are hungry and will benefit from liquid fertiliser. Kale requires at least 5 hours of sun per day.
Harvest the leaves after about 2 months when they are small by pulling them downwards; the smaller leaves are the most flavoursome and tender. Start at the bottom of the plant and work upwards. Smaller leaves can be eaten in a salad and more mature leaves cooked like a vegetable.
Try making Kale Chips by coating chopped up leaves liberally with olive oil, sprinkling over with salt and then backing in a moderate over for 5 to 10 minutes until they go crisp. Keep an eye on them though as they can burn really quickly.
Written by Sue McDougall, a qualified horticulturalist and experienced garden centre owner who grew up in the WA wheatbelt and has had experience in gardening throughout the entire state. You may know Sue as the garden expert on 6PR radio and by her many TV appearances.