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Kale and Collards

Kale and Collards
Brassicaceae (Cruciferae)
Annuals, Vegetables

These cool-season cabbage relatives (members of the genus Brassica) are grown for their leaves, which can be steamed, stir-fried, sauteed, or added to soups. Curly-leafed kales (such as ‘Dwarf Blue Curled’ and ‘Dwarf Siberian’) form compact clusters of leaves that are tightly curled. ‘Toscano’ is a noncurly green kale; ‘Red Russian’ is a noncurly red kale (its leaves are actually gray-green with purple veins).

So-called flowering kale is similar to flowering cabbage, with brightly colored, decorative foliage; it too is edible and is sometimes sold in markets under the name “salad savoy.”

The type of kale known as collards is a large, smooth-leafed plant that does not form a head. Collard varieties include ‘Champion’, ‘Georgia’, and ‘Vates’.

Sow seeds in place and thin to 1 1/2–3 ft. apart; or set out transplants at the same spacing. Plant kale in late summer for a fall crop; in cool-summer areas, it can also be planted in early spring for a summer crop (intense sun in hotter climates makes the leaves turn bitter). Plant collards in summer for fall and winter harvest; or plant in early spring for a spring-into-summer crop (collards are heat tolerant). Vigorous plants will grow to 2–3 ft. high. For all types of kale and collards, harvest leaves by removing them from the outside of clusters; or harvest the entire plant. Light frost sweetens the flavor.

Both kale and collards are high in vitamins A and C, and in calcium.

Plants suffer far fewer pest and disease problems than most other crops in the cabbage family.

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