Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kale Season at the Chez TJ Potager

This fall I'm obsessing over kale. It began when I tasted a shredded raw kale salad made right out in the garden last spring. It was simply dressed with lemon, tamari, and sesame seeds. Strawberries added a bright garnish and flavor. It made an impression on me, so when fall approached I planned to test a few different varieties, and sowed some flats for seedlings.

Kale Likes it Cool
Kale is a cool weather crop that can be grown fall through spring in the temperate San Francisco Bay Area. It tolerates frost, as does lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and Swiss chard. Plant these in the early fall to enjoy over the winter. Cold weather and frost are said to contribute to better flavor and texture for kale.

A Rainbow of Kale 
At the Chez TJ kitchen potager, I harvested our first Lacinato Rainbow kale crop for the kitchen a few days ago. The seedlings were planted in September and they grew quickly. This pretty kale has beautiful purple-pink stems and tender frilly leaves; it's a handsome plant for the winter garden. 

I discovered that it is a hybrid made by Frank Morton who crossed Tuscan kale, (also known as Lacinato or Dinosaur kale) with Redbor kale. It looks very much like Red Russian kale. This caused some confusion, as at first I thought it had been mislabeled!

Lacinato Rainbow Kale is a cross between Tuscan and Redbor kales 

This weekend I added Tuscan kale to the garden (Dinosaur kale) that I grew from seeds at home. 

Tuscan kale is also called Dinosaur or Lacinato kale

Tuscan kale has evenly dark green, elongated leaves that have a pebbly suface. It's tender and flavorful - a popular item at my farmer's market.

Ornamental kale 

The beautiful purple, pink, and gray-green ornamental kale above is planted in my front yard bed among lettuce, onions and Red Russian kale - it makes a striking centerpiece. Ornamental kale is edible, but don't eat it if it wasn't grown organically, as it may have been sprayed with pesticides and cultivated with synthetic fertilizers.

Simple Kale Saute
A simple way to enjoy kale is to saute it in olive oil over low heat:
1. Thinly slice a bunch of kale (that has been rinsed in water  first) crosswise, leaving the stems for the compost pile.

2. Saute a clove of chopped garlic for a few minutes in the olive oil, then add the sliced kale. Toss it gently while cooking to make sure it cooks evenly. Taste after a few minutes to test if it's done enough to your liking. 

3. Season with a sprinkle of kosher salt, and add a few drops of lemon or balsamic vinegar before serving, if desired. 

You can also toss the sauteed kale with cooked pasta or rice and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. This dish is good cold or warm, and thinly sliced red sweet pepper is a nice addition for color and bright fresh flavor. Or serve tender white beans on a bed of sauteed kale (below).

Sauteed kale with Italian Butter beans

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke


  1. We just planted Cavello Nero and are looking forwards to acres of the stuff to play with :)

  2. I love that kale! Funny how it has acquired a collection of names- my seed packet calls it "Tuscan" kale, which I admit sounds pretty sophisticated :)

    Enjoy your kale acres!

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    1. FYI: as mentioned in this post, my purchased seedlings were "Lacinto Rainbow kale"; this confused me greatly because when they grew out they looked very much like Red Russian kale.
      Now the mystery is solved and I edited the post to keep it accurate!

  4. I love kale and am always looking for recipes and good tips! thanks.

  5. Thanks for your comments ASA. I enjoyed visiting Sonoma last weekend- got to peek at the Girl and the Fig farm, and also had a little tour of the garden out behind the restaurant.

    Good luck with your growing!


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