Growing Kale Varieties for the Fall Garden

Why plant kale in your fall garden? Think sweet winter salads, nourishing homemade soups, and infinitely snackable kale chips. Persuaded? Leaf through this guide to selecting the best kale varieties for your plot.

  • Lacinato Kale Growing in Garden
    ‘Lacinato’ kale is the best-tasting cooked variety.
    Photo by David Cavagnaro
  • Kale is known for its ability to withstand winter weather.
    Photo by David Cavagnaro
  • Vates Kale Growing in Garden
    ‘Vates’ is one of the most winter-hardy kales you can grow.
    Photo by David Cavagnaro
  • Kale Salad
    Kale is a standout source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, the B vitamin folic acid, and beta carotene.
    Photo by Fotolia

  • Lacinato Kale Growing in Garden
  • Vates Kale Growing in Garden
  • Kale Salad

Count kale as one of the true treasures of the fall garden, with its sweetness revealed only after old Jack Frost has kissed its leaves a time or two. This ultra-cold-hardy, leafy green vegetable is a reliable deeply satisfying addition to any cool-weather garden. Some types have tender leaves perfect for salads. Some are great steamed or in stews, and some are so hardy you can harvest them even in the dead of winter almost everywhere. And they’re beautiful, too.

Many of the folks who buy their produce in season from local farmers have learned to love this unusual, old-fashioned fall and winter vegetable — even though they may not have grown up eating it. Kale is a little-known relative of broccoli and cabbage, with a taste that appeals to both adults and children. During my years as a kale lover, I’ve run into a number of kale-eating families with young children who relish the vegetable steamed and served simply with butter or perhaps vinegar, with salt and pepper to taste. Deb Kaldahl of the Abundant Life Seed Foundation in Port Townsend, Wash., says steamed kale is one of the few cooked vegetables her children will eat.

An elite member of a highly nutritious family of foods called the “dark-green leafy vegetables,” kale is kin to broccoli and collards, which are its closest relatives; spinach; Swiss chard; and beet, mustard and turnip greens. All are good sources of vitamin K, the B vitamin folic acid, and beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the liver. Dark-green leafy vegetables are also exceptionally high in other carotenoids, including zeaxanthin and lutein, which are powerful antioxidants that protect us from degenerative illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness among the elderly).

For years, kale also has been touted as one of the best vegetable sources of calcium — which is especially important for vegans and others who don’t consume dairy products. The newest research on calcium’s role in human nutrition sheds even more light of how important kale, collards and broccoli can be: It shows that, in order for the body to assimilate dietary calcium, magnesium must also be present in a meal. Dairy products are rich in calcium but have relatively little magnesium. Kale and its relatives have substantial amounts of both nutrients.

Growing Kale Varieties

Kale thrives in cold weather and has a venerable history of nourishing people throughout the cold, dark months of the year, when few other green vegetables are to be had. The most common kale, the so-called Scotch or Scotch Curled (Brassica oleracea, Acephala group), is a primitive cabbage.

The other kind of kale, the Siberian or Napus type (Brassica napus), is actually more closely related to rutabagas. With its tender leaves, it has become popular in recent years as an ingredient in many of the imaginative salad mixes being grown by home gardeners and market farmers. Thanks to the introduction of new colors and forms in the past few years, an excellent selection of both Scotch Curled and Napus types are available commercially.

7/27/2018 8:53:37 PM

Am I the only one who depends on the very young seed heads of kale for a delicious late winter/ spring vegetable? I begin to harvest those heads, cook them for a few minutes and eat them to replace broccoli and cabbage for us. They will produce this way for months as long as you keep them picked.

2/1/2015 11:44:52 AM

Has anyone ever eaten premeir forage kale?

8/31/2013 9:54:37 AM

Your reference to Scotchs kale as a primitave cabbage is incorrect. Curly kale, westland brig etc is of the mustard family.Its also our families favourite veg. I have being eating it all my life and never seem to tire of it :)



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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