Kale: picking, selecting, storing
20 Oct 2013 08.27 am by Renny Wijeyamohan
“Meet Kale: Your new friend with benefits” read advertisements for kale products I saw while on holiday in the United States. And who doesn’t need more friends? Especially ones as nutrient rich and supercharged as kale. Not commonly stocked or grown in Australia, this member of the Brassica Oleracea is full of goodies. Low in calories, high in protein and calcium as well as loaded with dietary fiber and Vitamins A, C, K and B6, kale is one veggie you need to get onto your plate pronto.
Kale is generally ready to pick between 70 and 95 days after you’ve planted seeds. If you’ve transplanted your kale plant, the harvest time will be shortened to around 55 to 75 days. Wait until the plant is around 20 to 25 centimetres high (approx 8 to 10 inches) before you start picking leaves. Kale leaves grow from oldest, at the bottom of the plant, to youngest, at the top. When the plant is ready to be picked the bottom leaves should be palm-sized. Start at the bottom and pick your way to the top, but make sure to leave a minimum of 4 leaves at the top of the plant – this will ensure it survives and will guarantee you an ongoing kale crop. If you want to harvest the entire plant, cut it about 5 centimetres (approx 2 inches) above the soil. If you do this fresh leaves should appear within a couple of weeks. If your kale starts “bolting”, usually in spring or in warmer weather – then you’ve missed your chance. Bolted plants that have grown tall and spindly and have produced yellow flowers should be uprooted and cleared.
When you’re in your local grocery store or supermarket keep an eye out for kale that has rich, green, deep coloured leaves. When handled the kale should feel light and crisp to the touch with stems that are taut and firm. Avoid kale that looks yellow, wilted or that has blemishes because it’s probably on the way out.
Fresh kale should be eaten as soon as possible but will last for a day or two on your kitchen counter. If refrigerated you can extend the shelf life of kale up to a week and if you wrap it in paper towel before placing it in a plastic bag in your refrigerator’s chiller it could even last for 2 weeks. Kale is a vegetable that keeps well when frozen, in fact, some cooks store it this way to take the bitter edge off that kale taste. Frozen kale is best used within 12 months.
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