No garden should be without kale and collards. These easy-to-grow green leafy vegetables are both from the Brassica family (which includes cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussel sprouts and broccoli.)
What makes these so great?
These are sturdy vegetables. They’ll grow in just about any soil and climate (although they will slow down a bit when the weather is hot). You should make these a staple of your fall/winter garden. Like most Brassicas, the flavor of kale and collards actually improves after a slight frost. With protection they will continue to thrive and produce throughout mild winters. In our bitter Upper Midwest winters, I grow them in my cold frame, where they are dormant through the worst of the winter but spring back to life in late February.
You don’t need to plant a lot
Just 4-6 collard or kale plants will give you an abundant supply of vegetable goodness. As the plants grow, harvest the older outer and lower leaves and the plant will continue to produce all summer and fall. These leaves are great steamed or sautéed in bacon fat.
So many recipes from just one plant
I have a bundle of recipes using kale and collards. I hope you’ll try them. Kale is the essential ingredient in Caldo Verde, a delicious potato soup from Portugal.
But our family favorite is Kale Chips. Nothing is easier to make than Kale Chips. Just brush olive oil on both sides of the leaves. Then, using scissors, fold the leave in half and cut out the stem. Cut the leaf into 2″ (or so) pieces and arrange on your dehydrator tray or cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt (just a little–don’t over-salt!) and dehydrate or put into 150° oven for about 4 hours or they are nice and crispy. It’s really that easy. Make plenty, because they will disappear once your kids taste them.
Now, I’m calling these Kale Chips but I actually prefer to use collards. Kale has a bit more intense flavor than collards, but I find the curly leaves can make it a little hard to brush on olive oil and get them cut into bite-size pieces. For over-winter growing, I prefer Kale. It’s a shorter plant so it fits in my cold frame better than the taller collards. But for this tasty snack either one will do fine.