Growing Calcium

Reader Contribution by Cindy Conner
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Did you know that there is more calcium in a cup of collards than there is in a cup of milk? Parsley has just as much calcium per pound as collards. Kale is a good producer of calcium, also. You can grow these things right in your garden for much of the year. Of course, most likely you won’t be sitting down to a dish of parsley, as you would collards or kale, but just knowing how loaded with calcium it is, maybe you’ll be adding it to more foods.

Collards and kale are cabbage family plants, making them tricky to grow through the summer here in Ashland, VA. These crops don’t do as well during our hot humid summers as they do in the other three seasons. The harlequin bugs took out my August transplants and I had to grow some more, transplanting in September. I intend to do more companion planting in 2013, particularly adding flowers. According to Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham, basil, dill, marigolds, and calendulas are good companions. Adding hyssop to my garden would be good, also. In general, she says just mix it all up. It is good to have something flowering at all times to attract the beneficials. I planted nasturtiums near some peppers this year and let them wander in. I don’t have an insect problem with peppers, but that combination looked so good I’ll repeat it next summer. It was food for the soul. My friend Brent (you would have met him in our DVD Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan) does a good job mixing flowers with his veggies. I have been in his garden and watched wasps, attracted by the flowering plants, fly among his kale and collards looking for things to eat. There were cabbage butterflies in the air, but no insect damage to his leaves. I don’t remember all he had interplanted there, but I do remember the hairy vetch, which surprised me. The wasps sure liked it. My friend Molly freely seeds dill in her garden, letting it come up anywhere.

I plant a spring crop of kale and collards that will get us through June and a later crop for fall and winter harvest. In 2011 I wanted a crop to use in my solar dryer early in the season so I planted a nice bed of collards– much more than we needed fresh. I harvested every few days May through June and put the leaves in the solar dryer. The drying went great and I thought I’d develop some recipes around those dried collards, but that never happened. I’ve used them in soups and things like that. Since I have some growing in the garden fall through spring I usually just use these greens fresh. I dried kale this past spring and it did just as well. One of these days I’ll get creative in the kitchen. I always have great ideas about using these dried greens in dips or something, along with my cowpeas, onions, and garlic. I could just cook up the dried greens themselves, but at the times I would tend to do that, I have fresh ones from the garden. I met a woman once who dried all sorts of greens and used them daily in her morning smoothies. I don’t make smoothies, but that’s an idea. I could reconstitute the dried ones or use the cooked fresh greens layered in a casserole. You can put all sorts of things in a casserole. Give it an interesting name that your family will accept. They don’t have to know ALL the ingredients–unless they ask. I have always been truthful about what was in a dish. My family just didn’t always know what questions to ask to get a complete answer. Or another way to look at is, they knew it was best not to ask too many questions at all. In our garden plan DVD our daughter Betsy is shown with collards in her Arkansas garden. We ate those collards she picked that day and what a treat! The downside of cooking greens for a crowd is that you need a big pot to start. They cook down a lot. I usually just steam collards and kale and we add vinegar to them at the table. They can go in quiche and stir fry and on pizza.

If your shady yard is sunny in the winter because the leaves are off the trees, you might be able to have a spot for these greens out there and harvest all winter from a cold frame or under a row cover. Find more information about kale and collards and about calcium and how your body uses it at

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