Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Tale of Two Kales

Actually, I told part of the story in the previous post. My curly kale made it though our drop to Very Cold Temperatures undamaged, but the Red Russian ended up with some bleaching on the older leaves. There is more to know, though, about these two crops.

The purple-stemmed Red Russian, according to my seed catalogs (which I finally have had a chance to look through!), should grow to be fairly large, 18-30 inches in height, but I haven't seen it get bigger than the lower end of that range so far. However, we may be eating it faster than it can grow! Most of the catalogs seem to indicate that this kale is more cold-hardy than it turned out to be in my North Georgia garden.

The other kale that I grew this year is the Vates dwarf blue curled. If I had realized how truly dwarf it would be, I would have spaced the plants closer together. I'm ordering seeds for a larger curled kale to grow next, because I want bigger leaves.

Both of these kale varieties taste good to me, but they are definitely different. Leaves of the Red Russian are MUCH more tender and taste sweeter to me. The Vates dwarf curled has tougher leaves; for salad, I chop them very small and let them stand in the dressing for a couple of hours before attempting to eat the them.

Even though they are dwarf, the curliness means that there is more actual leaf for their size than for the Red Russian, so it takes fewer leaves to fill my salad bowl. Mixing the two kinds of kale in one salad, though, makes it lovely to behold and even better to eat.

For both, even though many gardeners say that kale tastes the same when grown right through the summer, the catalogs agree that kale tastes better when grown in cold weather. The cold prompts the plant to store more sugars in the leaves as protection against freezing (sugar-water freezes at a lower temperature than plain water).

I talked with a friend today, though, who really doesn't like kale, even when it is winter-grown. Since she is an outgoing person who hangs out with gardeners and since kale is so very popular right now, she is faced with many-a bowl full of kale, prepared one way or another.

She is a good sport and eats the kale even when she'd rather not, but for other gardeners, the ease of growing such a nutritious, mild-flavored vegetable that stands in the garden through the winter makes it easy to include some in the winter garden. The only question for those gardeners will be which one, or several, to grow.

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