New su­per­food kale worth a try

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

Ap­par­ently there’s a world short­age of kale. One of the world’s ma­jor kale seed sup­pli­ers has all but run out, and that’s quite likely be­cause this very trendy veg­etable is re­ceiv­ing a great deal of at­ten­tion be­cause of its su­per­food sta­tus. Add to that the fact that it’s su­per easy to grow by seed, and the world is sud­denly in kale cri­sis.

"It’s caught us out well and truly,’’ says Tony Hub­bard from Bejo Seeds, which is based in the Nether­lands. The in­creased pop­u­lar­ity of kale, he says, is un­prece­dented. Who would have thought? There was a time when many peo­ple would turn their nose up at kale. But that’s all changed now. Once you know what’s in it, you might like to give it a go too.

Kale has one of the high­est lev­els of an­tiox­i­dants of any veg­etable. It’s chock full of an­ti­cancer sul­phur-con­tain­ing phy­tonu­tri­ents, and it’s also a good source of pro­tein and di­etary fibre. On the vi­ta­min and min­eral front, it has Vi­ta­mins A, C, K, B6, and cal­cium, potas­sium, cop­per, man­ganese, thi­amin, ri­boflavin, fo­late, iron and mag­ne­sium.

A non-heart­ing cab­bage, kale is hardier than any other cab­bage.

Give it an open site in fer­tile, well-drained but mois­ture re­ten­tive soil. It doesn’t like acid­ity, so add lime be­fore plant­ing if nec­es­sary. A soil pH of 6.5-7.5 is ideal. The more com­post or aged ma­nure you can in­cor­po­rate into the soil, the bet­ter. The less fer­tile the soil, the more bit­ter the leaves.

Kale has a high ni­tro­gen re­quire­ment, so feed with any ni­tro­gen-rich liq­uid fer­tiliser or a sea­weed fer­tiliser dur­ing growth.

Luck­ily, there doesn’t seem to be any short­age of kale seeds in New Zealand. You can find seedlings at gar­den cen­tres, or look for seeds at Kings Seeds (www.kingsseeds.co.nz), Eg­mont Seeds (www.egmontseeds.co.nz), Ital­ian Seeds Pronto (www.ital­ianseed­spronto.co.nz) and the seed mer­chants at all gar­den re­tail­ers.

There are a num­ber of va­ri­eties avail­able to try.

Black kale, or cavolo nero, is much loved by chefs. It’s so named be­cause the bluey-green leaves turn al­most black when cooked. But it keeps its form when cooked, whereas some of the older va­ri­eties don’t. Cavolo nero is per­fect for hearty win­ter soups and cur­ries.

Win­ter­bor is the hardi­est of the lot. It’s vig­or­ous too, pro­duc­ing an abun­dance of ruf­fled leaves that are great for sal­ads and cook­ing.

Squire is a curly-leaf type that looks a lot like gi­ant curly-leaf pars­ley. It’s sweet enough to use in win­ter sal­ads or stir-fries and it’s slow to bolt in spring.

Red Rus­sian has green oak­shaped leaves with pur­ple-red stems. Its suc­cu­lent, sweet leaves are ideal for sal­ads. The flow­er­ing shoots can also be used like pur­ple sprout­ing broccoli (broccoli rabe) and it grows well in warmer ar­eas.

Give kale a go. And make sure you save the seeds af­ter flow­er­ing – just in case.

Visit Jane’s blog: www.flam­ing­petal.co.nz

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