Have you planted your kale seeds and are looking forward to your first harvest? Well, here is a list of the things that you should know to harvest kale without killing it. With the right technique and right timing, you could prolong the harvest of kale without starting from scratch.
Kale is known around the world as a superfood. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals that provides health benefits for your body. In fact, a single cup of kale contains more than enough Vitamin A, Vitamin, Vitamin C.
Aside from that, it also contains Manganese, Copper, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium and many more. All that nutrients come from only 33 caloriesm, 6 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of protein.
Being more nutritious than spinach, it is known to help make your skin, hair, and bones healthy. Moreover, it could help in managing diseases like diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.
This green leafy vegetable could be added to your favorite mix of salad or could stand alone as a side dish of your savory food. It has a strong and earthy taste that could be a bit bitter for some.
The texture of its leaves are tough but crunchy. That’s why it is a perfect addition to your favorite salad.
In addition, planting kale could be really rewarding. It is a plant that even beginners could try to grow. It is very easy to grow with minimal maintenance requirements and the plant could withstand strong cold and hot weather conditions.
So if you’re all set to plant or you’ve already planted it, there are ways to make your harvest continuous through different seasons without killing the plant.
Kale Growing Conditions
Kale is a biennial plant, which means that you could grow them until two years only. But most farmers treat it as an annual. Therefore, you could harvest leaves throughout the first year.
To ensure that you will be harvesting continually, kale plants should be kept at its best quality. Because just like other plants, healthy mature plants yield better results.
Here are some of the growing conditions you should remember:
Kale could be planted on a wide range of weather conditions. In fact, they could withstand frost and mild to extreme heat.
However, the plant grows best on Hardiness Zone 7 to 10. Therefore, you could expect that they will still produce leaves even if it’s snowing outside.
The soil temperature conducive for kale growth is between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It could withstand frost, but it needs extra care to go through the entire winter.
Since kale is grown for its leaves, it requires full sun to partial shade. It could withstand extreme sun exposure during the summer, as long as the soil is kept moist. Meanwhile partial shade would work as long as the weather is warm and dry.
Nitrogen is important in growing kale. You want to have green and healthy leaves by fixing the soil with nitrogen through compost or fertilizer.
Then, moist is also important in the growth of kale. This would make the leaves sweet and crisp, so keep the kale plants well watered. You could also try mulching to keep the moist trapped in the soil.
As mentioned, the plant needs enough nitrogen in the soil. To do that, you must use 0.5 cups of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 10 feet row. Then, add it to your soil and make sure to mix it on the top 3 -4 inches of the soil.
Then, place compost feed or fertilizer with high content of nitrogen throughout the year, You could use fish emulsion or other types of fertilizer. Read the labels to properly place the fertilizer into the soil.
Follow these care tips to keep the plants healthy and at its best quality. This would help in prolonging the life of the kale plant and therefore prolonging our harvest.
Kale Harvest Period
Planting kale does not require a specific season or time. You could plant Kale anytime as long as the soil is workable. Therefore, harvesting kale could also be any season or time.
Although kale takes 55 to 80 days before maturity, you could harvest baby kale after 30 days. If the plant is four inches tall, you could start harvesting baby kale leaves.
Then, mature leaves will be harvested upon a certain period of time. For plants that were directly seeded into the garden bed, it would normally take 70-80 days. But for transplanted, you could expect your plant to mature after 55 days.
While the harvest period of this plant does not require a special season, here are some special scenarios that you should consider.
Harvest during summer
Extreme heat brought by summer could be a bit unrewarding. Leaves are tough and overly bitter which makes it inedible.
With that, use a stronger tool to cut the leaves from its stem. And to ensure that the tough and bitter leaves won’t be harvested for the next season, harvest 90% of the leaves from the stem.
Just make sure to retain a few leaves on the stem for the next season to come
Harvest during winter
Some experts recommend waiting until winter to harvest your crops. According to them, this time improves the taste of kale.
The frost increases the amount of sugar in kale which makes the leaves sweeter. This would be perfect for those people who don’t like kale because of its bitter taste.
If you want to try this out, make sure to allocate 70 to 80 days before direct seeding into soil. Or if you’re transplanting, plan 55 days ahead.
If you miscalculated, don’t worry! Just harvest a few leaves before the frost. Then, harvest again during frost. This way, you will be able to compare the difference.
Process Of Harvesting Kale
Now that you’ve got a clear picture of the right conditions to grow your kale into a healthy mature plant, let’s get to harvesting. Harvesting kale could be really rewarding since continuous harvest could be done.
Kale leaves could be harvested when the leaves are about the size of your fist. Avoid waiting for the leaves to grow bigger, as the leaves become tough and inedible. Yellowing and discoloration of the leaves is also a sign of overmature leaves.
As you can see from your plant, the leaves are attached to a central stem. It will grow from the top of the stem, while the stem grows taller.
Therefore, start picking on the outermost leaves or the leaves on the bottom-most part. These leaves are the most mature ones and the bigger ones. By starting on the outermost, the produce of the plant is maximized.
Do not cut the stem or the smaller leaves in the inner circle of leaves. This could stop the regrowth of new leaves, or worse, kill the plant.
The center area of the plant, which means the stem and the innermost leaves, will let the plant from producing throughout the year.
Therefore, do not overharvest. Harvest only a fistful of leaves and leave at least one third of the leaves on the stem. You could always come back to harvest again anyway.
But if the need arises, you could harvest the leaves, just leave 5-7 leave intact.
Although leaving a few leaves after harvest could assure continual harvest for the next season, kale plant could only withstand 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature lower than 32 degrees could hinder the growth of Kale and therefore cause death to the plant.
But don’t worry, there are some ways to protect your plants from extreme temperature. Use row covers, hoop houses, cold frames, tarp with hay. These equipment could trap the heat and act as insulation.
You could still harvest during the winter, but do not remove the covers. Just reach out to the bottom cover. Then, gradually pick the leaves. But you could always leave the kale to grow over winter and harvest in spring.
On the other hand, summer could toughen the leaves which makes it inedible. But if you want to enjoy your kale leaves in summer, you could still do. Just harvest the leaves before it matures for normal texture.
Kale Storing And Using
After harvesting, wash the leaves in clean running water. Air dry first before storing to prevent molds from suddenly growing. Make sure that the plant is completely free from water droplets before storing.
Use a plastic bag to store the plant in your refrigerator. The freshness could last up to one week. After that, you may notice change in its appearance or drying.
Therefore, consume it before one week. You could add kale directly into your salad. You could opt for blanching and steaming, but take note that this plant is most nutritious when fresh. Therefore, use heat as fast as possible to prevent it from destroying its nutrients.
Big leaves could still be consumed. Just remove the tough parts and cut it into pieces.