This has been an all-around excellent growing season, especially for our cool-weather crops. Despite their slow start, we had cabbages all summer long, and we still have a couple left in the garden that weren't krauted. I am also still snipping side shoots of broccoli (just had some for dinner!), which means that we've been harvesting broccoli for three and a half months now. That's definitely a new record for us.
But most glorious of all has been our kale crop this fall:
We planted the kale back in August, and it has done very well this season, thanks to our relatively wet and cool summer. The kale above is a Russian variety, although there is also some Swiss chard behind it. This was a bonus round of kale that Kirk put in by transplanting some of the thinnings from the main bed. They totally took off, and now we have almost twice as much kale as we had originally planned.
Our main kale bed (above) is a four by eight foot box of 32 plants. The half on the right are Russian, and the half on the left is a curly dwarf variety. Last year we struggled to get these crops past the seedling stage in the fall because we planted them too late (and during dry spell), but this year we are overrun.
Although this looks like too much right now, kale serves as our primary leafy green during the winter months. It will survive without protection (and even under the snow!) long after our other greens have given up the ghost. It won't keep growing in the low light and cold temperatures of winter, but it will stay fresh during its dormancy. This amount of kale should be enough to last us through the worst of winter, until spinach puts on new growth in March and lettuce seedlings can get set out in April.
So we will work our way through it over the next several months. In the meantime, I don't plan on eating much of it at all. It's not at its best yet, and won't be until a frost or two sweetens it. If you don't like kale, be sure to try it from a farm stand after the frost. It’s sweet and tender then, because the plants produce more sugar to lower their freezing points. Kale survives so well in part because it produces a lot of sugar in its leaves. I'm not sure why anyone eats it in the summer, actually. Kale is for the winter, just as sure as tomatoes are for the summer.