31 Ways to Eat Healthier in the New Year

Starting today we will feature a different edible plant in our daily post. One plant per day for 31 days. The goal is to get our readers more familiar with edible plants and inspire folks to plan their 2014 edible gardens.

Today’s edible plant of the day is kale. Many of you probably already know kale well because it has become a nutrition superstar of late. However, there is more to kale than green juices and kale chips.

Just a few short years ago kale was a lonely fellow. It was often used as a garnish or decoration in fruit bowls and other food displays. Now it is not uncommon to find kale sold out at the market. Kale is now a green, leafy rock-star!

Kale is very easy to grow and can have a long growing season. Two great reasons to consider it for beginning or experienced gardeners. There are also enough varieties available to keep it interesting.

You can grow kale from seed fairly easily or buy it as a live plant. The decision can be made based on your experience with starting seeds, local availability of live plants, and the amount of space you plan to plant to kale. Kale gets large and needs room to flourish all season long.  As a result, you may only need a few plants.

Kale can grow well in gardens that lack long hours of direct sun. So, it may be a great choice for gardens that have partial shade. Just be sure the soil is nutrient dense and rich with compost to help keep the kale growing. It will pay dividends all season long and maybe into the winter. In fact, kale flavor intensifies and gets sweeter after the first frost it is exposed to.

Harvesting kale is easy and can be done by children. Just pick the outer leaves and leave the center ones alone to ensure the plant keeps growing. Large leaves are great for cooking and small, tender leaves are better for salads or juicing.

The number 1 reason we love to grow kale is because it is a member of the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) “Dirty Dozen“.  It is a shame, but kale and collards are some of the most heavily pesticide sprayed vegetables we encounter.  Plus, the crinkled leaves can make it tough to rinse it well enough to remove some of the pesticides.  In our opinion, even a little pesticide residue is too much for our taste buds.  We either buy organic or grow our own.  The latter is much more fun and incredibly economical.

That brings us to our last part on kale. In 2013 we ate kale from our garden from April until yesterday (12/31/13).  It is going to take us right into the new year too.  During that time we estimate harvesting 75 pounds of the stuff!  Now, just imagine if we purchased all of that from our local Whole Foods at $2.99 a bunch?  A recent bunch of Lacinato kale that I weighed there was about 1.5 pounds.  That means we would be paying about $2 a pound!  So we grew $150 worth of kale alone in 2013!

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