New superfood kale worth a try
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.
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