Aloha Hawaii Home & Garden Network,
Ultra-healthy superfoods continue to be the culinary rage and having one or many of them in your own organic home garden will make you an uber user of superfoods. Foods such as salmon, blueberries, almonds, quinoa and kale, are known to be packed full of vitamins that fight diseases and elevate your overall health. While these superfoods are readily available in most markets, one can easily be incorporated into your lanai or backyard organic home garden – kale.
Let’s look at the health specifics of kale. According to WebMD.com, a serving (one cup of raw leaves) contains 3 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber, and omega-3 fatty acid. And the vitamins! Kale supplies 134 percent of daily requirements of vitamin C (boosts the immune system), 206 percent of daily requirements of vitamin A (good for eyes, bones and skin) and 684 percent of the daily requirements of vitamin K (good for heart and memory). All these goodies help fight cancers, heart disease and inflammation. This makes it a no-brainer to add to your home garden. It’s easy to grow from starters and it responds well to our sunny Hawaiian climate. We can grow it all year.
Kale, from the cabbage family, grows well in the ground or in containers for your lanai home garden. Wherever you decide to plant your kale, use good soil. I discovered a local all-purpose, organic, ready-to-use and inexpensive potting soil, NIU from Honolulu. The packaging proudly lists worm casing as one of its ingredients. So maybe it’s time to invest in garden gloves if you don’t already use them. Hardy and inexpensive gloves can be found at local home improvement stores. I am currently using a really good pair I found in the fishing section of a big box store at less than $4.00 a pair.
For containers on your lanai, choose a planter with plenty of room for growing healthy roots (at least six inches wide and six inches deep). I used starters I picked up at a local home improvement store for about $2.00 each. I’ve heard that one starter per container produces the best results for a lanai home garden. I’ve had luck using several starters in a rectangular planter (24” long, 6” wide and 6” deep), placing each starter six inches apart.
Whatever the size of your planter, make sure there are a couple of holes in the bottom for proper irrigation. Place the container in a full sun area and water. The soil should remain moist to the touch. With starters, you can begin to harvest leaves right away so place the planter in an easy access area for grabbing leaves as you need them for a lanai home garden.
Kale does great in the ground as well in a backyard home garden. Plant your starters in good soil. It might be necessary to add purchased garden soil with existing soil to create the best environment for your kale. Again, give each starter plenty of room (at least six inches between starters), plant in a fully sunlit area and keep the soil moist to the touch.
Whether in the ground or a container, harvesting is easy. Just snip off the leaves you need starting from the outside of the plant, they will soon be replaced with new fresh leaves. If you want to use the entire plant, cut a couple of inches above the roots so your leaves will grow back in abundance. Carefully wash each leaf before eating. Properly cared for, your kale will provide a sustainable amount of healthy leaves for months or longer.
I usually just go with starters for either a backyard or lanai home garden, but I also decided to experiment with kale seeds for this project. I sprinkled seeds in a small planter. I noticed signs of life only days after planting, but the plants were only about two inches after three weeks. The seed packaging states harvesting can begin between 50 and 65 days! And I will have to trim and transplant the growth from seeds. Conclusion, patience is required for growing kale from seeds. It takes much more time and effort than using starters.
You do not want to dilute the powerful health benefits of your kale by spraying harmful pesticides all over it. In fact, the texture of the kale leaves makes it difficult to thoroughly wash off pesticides. Yet another great reason to grow your own kale! Keep it organic and bug-free with Neem oil found in home improvement stores. If you are not familiar with neem products, check out this article from the National Pesticide Information Center http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/neemgen.html. It's a great product for any organic home garden.
Some might be snickering right now – so it’s time to address the elephant in the room. The taste. Kale is what some might refer to as an acquired taste. It’s bitter. And growing kale in warmer climates may add to the bitterness. If you love the taste – great, you are set to go. If not, let’s find some ways to manage the bitterness so all can experience kale’s undeniable health benefits.
Here are a few tips. Try different types of kale. I’ve heard the Toscano (Tuscan) leaves are less bitter than the Blue Dwarf Curly leaves. I conducted my own research, tasting both. Frankly, I found both to be equally bitter. But I encourage you to taste the different varieties, and there are a few, to see what tastes best to you. I do know that newer “baby” greens are not as bitter as mature leaves that have been on the plant for a while. Another good reason to include kale in your home garden, you will always have access to newer leaves.
Having said that, all kale leaves are versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked. Good thing too as this gives us more options to compliment the taste with other ingredients. I included some recipes for dishes using kale. With so many recipes out there, it could be a project to discover the ones that work for you and your family. So, grow away and have fun experimenting with recipes that help you incorporate this versatile superfood into your diet and into your organic home garden.
Crispy Kale Chips
Photo and recipe care of www.foodnetwork.com
1 head kale (about 3 cups chopped), washed and thoroughly dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
Remove the ribs from the kale and cut
into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Lay on a baking sheet
and toss with the olive oil and salt. Bake until
crisp, turning the leaves halfway through,
about 20 minutes. Serve as finger food
Ginger Kale Smoothies
Photo and recipe care of www.tasteofhome.com
1-1/4 cups orange juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups torn fresh kale
1 medium apple, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
4 ice cubes
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric or 1/4-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
Dash cayenne pepper
Place all ingredients in a blender; cover and process until blended. Serve immediately.
Kale and Cucumber Salad with Roasted Ginger Dressing
Photo and recipe care of www.bonappetit.com
8 ounces fresh ginger
1 green or red Thai chile
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bunch small Red Russian kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
1 English hothouse cucumber, very thinly sliced
3 Persian cucumbers, very thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
¼ cup store-bought fried onions