Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Harvesting Kale : All Season Long

Kale is one of my favorite greens to grow. While showing people around Our Little Backyard Farm I am always amazed at how many people are surprised at how I harvest my kale.  Many people see kale as a lettuce type of green and will typically harvest the whole plant similar to a head of leaf lettuce. While it is perfectly fine to do it that way,  that would require successive plantings in order to continue harvesting tender greens for longer than a few weeks at most.  
Instead of successive plantings, let me explain an easier method.  
A kale plant, if allowed to grow for an entire season, will get between two and 3 feet tall. The leaves on the bottom will have been browning and falling off, the middle would be light green with tough leaves and the top few leaves would be tender. (And of course a mix of those traits in between)

You can get by with only a half dozen kale plants in the garden if you are only feeding your family.
After the plant has grown to a size where the leaves appear ready for harvest, take a blade and begin removing the leaves from the bottom up. Some people bend and snap the leaves which leaves a small stem remaining on the plant. This is just a place where bugs can hid out, so I like to cut close to the stem instead.  Notice I said "close".  
Continue taking leaves until there are only a few leaves remaining on the plant.  Now all of the energy will go into growing just a few leaves, instead of a whole plant, There will be less places for bugs to hide out, and you will never have to harvest anything but tender leaves. (Providing you keep up with harvesting)

This last picture is what the plant should look like after harvesting for the day.  The stem will continue growing taller and stronger giving the appearance of tiny palm trees. The best part the end of the season, you will be harvesting at waist height instead of ground level. Win Win Win!

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