ebbie Roland, Master Gardener
Kale is a relative of collards, spinach, Swiss chard and greens, and, surprisingly, both kids and adults usually like it. It is sweet and robust and is even on some of the “super foods” lists so is a healthy choice to grow and eat. It is high in calcium, Vitamin K, beta carotene, and the B vitamin, Folic Acid. All dark green leafy vegetables contain antioxidants.
Kale does well in the West Texas cold weather and is available when other vegetables have finished producing. The cold turns the plant’s starches to sugar which means by mid-winter you will have a great addition to the dinner table. I have harvested mine when it still had snow on it. There are two types, curly and one that looks more like spinach. There are variations of both these.
If you plan to plant from seed, it is time to do that now. Pick a sunny spot with well drained soil. It is also good if you have a place that is out of the wind. My “salad garden” where I grow all my greens is in a bottomless recycled tub that is 6’ in diameter. The wind is blocked and the worms can still get in from the bottom.
Plant seedlings 14” apart and keep moist until established. I usually harvest the large leaves when plants are about three weeks old. You will need to regularly cut the large leaves off so the plant continues to produce. Use shears or scissors so that you don’t accidentally pull up the whole plant. Watering can be reduced when plant is established and producing.
Kale can be added to salads and is delicious sautéed with the seasoning of your choice. If you are on a plant based diet or vegan, it is recommended that you add kale to everything! I’ve added it to our weekly pot of beans, soups and stews and even scrambled eggs and it is delicious.
I have not had an issue with bugs until this year when I had an infestation of Harlequin Beetles. It is recommended that you pick off the bugs but this thing looks like a very scary squash bug so I was not going to touch it. Fortunately, my chickens also found them and that ended the problem quickly. If you aren’t lucky enough to have chickens, look for unhatched eggs on the underneath of leaves and gently scrape them off. Adults can be killed with Spinosad, though it takes a couple of days. Oklahoma State University studies have shown this is “the most effective, least toxic harlequin bug control”.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.