Kale: All About This Nutrient Powerhouse That Contains More Nutrients Than You Need

Kale, the one with many varieties, also known as brassica olarecea, does wonder to our bodies. And believe it or not, it is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on planet earth.

Kale originated around 2000 B.C.E, and we’ve consumed it since then. The plant can survive from temperatures as low as 59°F (about 15°C) and has many varieties. These varieties include curly-leaf, bumpy-leaf, ornamental, feathering type leaf, and finally, plain-leaf kale.

The plant also contains plenty of antioxidants, is an excellent source of vitamin C, helps lower cholesterol, and reduces the risk of heart diseases.

Kale is like many other vegetables, and thus, you can eat it in many ways. You can eat it raw, in salads, sandwiches, or even in smoothies. As a staple food, you can also bake it to preserve its crispiness.

When it comes to having medicinal purposes, kale wins the race again. Wanna know why? It has many cancer-fighting substances. It helps cure eyesight, and the best one is that it can help you lose weight as most vegetables do! Let’s explore this magnificent plant a bit more and see what the kale plant is? Let’s go!

Common NameKale
Botanical NameBrassica Olarecea
Plant TypeAn Annual / Biennial
Size (Fully Grown)Depending On The Variety 1 – 4 Feet (30 cm To 1,22 meters) Tall And Wide
Sun ExposurePrefers Full Sun To Partial Shade
Soil TypeLoamy, Moist, And Well Draining Soil
Soil pHFrom 5.5 To 6.5
Flower ColorYellow
U.S. Hardiness Zones7, 8, 9, And 10
Native AreaEastern Mediterranean And Asia Minor

What Are The Different Kale Types?

Even though there are many kale varieties, we can classify them into three main categories:

  1. Curly
  2. Black
  3. Redbor
  4. Chinese
  5. Siberian
  6. Lacinato
  7. Ornamental
  8. Red Russian

You might notice that some kale types in the supermarket have labels called “ornamental.” These plants are often of the red species and grown due to their beautiful looks, often featured by pink centers. Some ornamental types may also have a flower look, with frilly and fluffy textures and vibrant colors.

Origins And The History Of This Leafy Green Vegetable

As you’d expect, Kale has been around for over 2000 years and has been one of the most-consumed vegetables during these years.

We believe that the plant originates from the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. There, it was cultivated for food around 2000 B.C.E. After World War II, its growth and cultivation was encouraged in the U.K. mostly because it was a good source of vitamins while being a relatively inexpensive vegetable.

Kale’s Physical Description

With so many green vegetables around the world, I wouldn’t blame you if you can’t tell the difference between each of them.

You’ll generally know it’s kale if the leaves are long and either frilled, fluffy, curly, or flat. The colors range mostly between green, red, and purple depending on the variety. And if you have a good power of estimation, you can figure it out by its height, which is around 24 inches (about 60 cm) in most varieties.

Furthermore, the leaves are dry, crunchy, and strong tasting. But, to distinguish between the main varieties, you have to look for the following features.

Curly Kale

If you’re in the grocery store and see a green vegetable with large, frilly-edged curly leaves that are usually sold as leaves bound together, you got the green light. Yup, it’s curly kale!

Black Kale

The main feature here would be leaves like those of a palm tree, relatively narrow with thin stems. Taste-wise, it has a cabbage-like flavor.

Red Kale

This type, as the name suggests, has red stems. Although the taste is similar to curly kale, the leaves are usually flatter.

If you have a strong sense of smell, you’ll know it is kale if you sense an earthy, “green” smell. And if you can dig into a bite, and the strong earthy taste (but not spicy) will further confirm it.

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The Climate & Temperature Requirements For Growing Kale

Kale is a cool-weather crop that can even handle temperatures as low as 20°F (about -7°C), which means that it is frost tolerant. But growing the plant in an environment above that temperature won’t assure success. So, let’s find out what other needs this plant has.

Soil

Since kale in itself is a superfood, it requires “super” soil. So, soil rich in organic matter and moderately acidic with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

Temperature

The optimal soil temperature to aim for when you’re planting kale is between 60 and 65°F (about 15.5 to 18°C). But, as we mentioned earlier, it is a cool-weather plant that cannot withstand high temperatures, or in other words, heat.

Water

Kale doesn’t need a tremendous amount of water but an amount of about one to 1.5 inches (about 2,5 to 3,8 cm) per week. This amount should keep the plant happy and the soil evenly moist.

Fertilizer

Kale loves fertilizer, and one containing a lot of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is something that this plant desires. I do want to remind you that the best fertilizer that also enriches the soil beneath you is, of course, organic compost.

You’re Not The Only One Who Loves Kale In Your Garden!

Same as almost all other plants in your garden, kale is susceptible to pest attacks!

So, pests like cutworms, cabbage loopers, and cabbage worms are something you should keep a close eye on. The simplest solution to this terrible problem is to hand-pick them. I know that it sounds disgusting, but remember that the plant needs this type of care. The stuff that I mentioned earlier might sound a bit hard and quite tricky, but don’t worry, growing kale isn’t that hard after “getting the hang of it.”

How To Choose The Right Kale From The Supermarket?

One of the best ways to distinguish healthy kale is to check its leaves. In other words, the leaves should be strong that look fresh. If the leaves are tiny, the plant was picked when it was still relatively young. Remember not to buy kale with yellow or wilted leaves, as they aren’t most likely fresh.

How To Store Kale Properly?

Storing it the right way sounds more straightforward than it is, but not that hard either.

The first thing to do is to remove any ties around the kale. After that, let’s use tissue paper to extract any extra moisture, as this can cause it to spoil earlier. And lastly, please place it in a plastic bag/tub with the tissue intact and store it in the refrigerator.

If you want to consume it fresh, make sure to eat it within 2-3 days of purchasing it, not exceeding more than two weeks. In case you’ve kept it in the fridge for too long, here’s how you can tell if your kale has gone bad.

Loss of moisture will cause the plant to wilt and change its color (usually to brown). If you keep it there for too long, the leaves start to exude a liquid. Another sign will be the change of its smell from an earthy smell to something that might remind you of rotten eggs.

If you notice any of these changes happening to your kale, whether the plant is still fresh or old, make sure to dispose it on time.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Kale?

It might sound weird that we start with a question like that because kale has many health benefits. But what we mean is that is it safe to eat it if you have a common medical disease or growing a new life inside you. So, read on if one or more of the below mentioned medical conditions apply to you. If you’re interested, you can also find whether the plant is pet-friendly from the info below.

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

You might already be familiar with the famous quote “eating for two.” It’s important to remember this when you are pregnant and during the breastfeeding period. Your body needs enough nutrients to produce milk for the baby, and one of the vegetables that are excellent for that is kale. The reason for this is because the plant contains plenty of vitamin A and potassium, so if you’re pregnant or still breastfeeding, remember to add kale to your diet!

Children

Kale is one of the best vegetables to include in your kids’ diets because it is a nutritional powerhouse. The best part about this plant is that you can introduce it to your baby when he/she starts to eat solid food. I would advise you to introduce your baby to other green plants because the earlier your little one can taste these, the earlier eating greens become a good habit.

People With Allergies

Like many other plants, you can have an allergy to kale, too, even though it’s a rare one. Some of the symptoms that may occur if you are allergic include; hives, itchy skin, dizziness, and digestive distress, to name a few.

Another thing to keep in mind if you are afraid that you might have a kale allergy is your “relationship” with the other plants in the same category. So, if you already have trouble eating veggies such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, arugula, cauliflower, radish, or turnips, be extremely careful with kale.

People With Diabetes

Type two diabetes is an uncomfortable condition, but thankfully kale is here to the rescue. Even though they can’t necessarily reverse this medical condition, green vegetables like this surely help. For example, kale juice is an option and a good one because studies have found it beneficial for people with diabetes.

Pets

You might be glad to hear that, yes, your pets (both dogs and cats) can eat kale. The best part about this is that as it is a huge nutrient boost for us humans, you can give it to your pets too as a meal supplement.

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