Kale is the quintessential winter crop.
5 reasons to call it super:
1. Super attractive – The leaves come in a range colours and shapes that are equally at home in an allotment or ornamental garden.
2. Super hardy – Kale is one of the hardiest crops. It stands up to the worst the weather can throw at it.
3. Super tasty – Packed with flavour, kale can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. Traditionally it’s shredded and then steamed or boiled and used as an accompaniment, but why not make it the star of the show? Try Tuscan bean stew with cavolo nero or kale chips (see recipes below).
4. Super nutritious – Kale is jam packed with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fibre.
5. Super curly – Looks great in your fridge!
How to grow it
1. Sow in a seedbed or seedtrays between March and June (early sowings will be ready to harvest in summer and autumn, late sowings will provide winter and spring harvests).
2. Transplant the young plants to their growing position when they have five or six true leaves. Space the plants 45cm apart and water them well.
3. Protect the plants from hungry pigeons with netting.
4. Harvest the leaves from the bottom up as new leaves are produced form the top. The young leaves are the most tender.
Tuscan bean stew with cavolo nero (or other kale)
1. Sweat some aromatic veg such as onions, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil until soft (add chopped bacon or Italian sausage if you eat meat)
2. Pour in a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of your favourite beans (borlotti, flageolet, cannellini, chickpeas or black-eyed beans all work well)
3. Add some liquid to make a soupy consistency, red wine, stock or water will do
4. Add flavourings such as oregano, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper
5. Bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour to allow the flavours to infuse
6. Finely shred 2 handfuls of kale.
7. Mix into a the stew and cook for a further 15mins. Check the consistency is not too dry
8. Serve with freshly chopped parsley, grated parmesan and crusty bread
1. Set your oven at its lowest setting
2. Remove the tough central stalks from a large bunch of kale
3. Chop the leaves into large pieces
4. Coat the leaves in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar and ½ a teaspoon of salt (other flavourings such as chilli and soy sauce can be added too)
5. Spread the leaves out on a baking tray and cook in the oven until they are dry. This can take between 40mins and 2 hours depending on the temperature of your oven. Watch carefully to check they don’t burn!