Power Plants: Kale

via Bryce Wylde

Biohacks, Remedies

Power Plants

KALE (Brassica oleracea)
Kale is closely related to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts—in fact, these foods are all cultivars of the same species. Kale comes in various shapes and forms—some edible and others ornamental—all flaunting green or purple leaves. Unlike its cabbage cousins, the central leaves of kale do not form a tightly packed head.
Kale and its Brassica brothers have been grown for more than 2,500 years and are now a staple in many regions of the world.
Kale may as well wear a cape. But it isn’t the new greens superhero for nothing. It’s got more calcium per weight than milk, more vitamin C than an orange, more than 100% of your daily requirements of vitamin A per cup, up to 1,000% of your daily requirements for vitamin K per cup, and is a great source of alpha-linoleic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid that is healthy for your brain and heart). If those aren’t superpowers, then what are?
For the liver to make factors necessary for blood to coagulate, it needs vitamin K. A vitamin K deficiency is rare, but people are vulnerable if they have chronic malnutrition, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis. Also, some drugs (including antibiotics, salicylates or anti-seizure medications) may kill the friendly gut bacteria necessary for helping you get sufficient vitamin K. But have no fear: a cup of kale and you’re getting your vitamin K hit as well as providing fibre to enhance the growth of good bacteria.
Vitamin A is imperative for many biological processes, including vision and cellular growth. Research suggests vitamin A may prevent certain forms of cancer, aid in growth and development, and improve immune function. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 900 micrograms (3,000 IU) for men and 700 micrograms (2,300 IU) for women. Less than a cup of kale has you covered.
Finally, kale is a source of Diindolylmethane (DIM), a compound believed to have anticancer properties, particularly against breast cancer and others affected by estrogen.
Difficulty: Easy
Hardiness: Annual
Time to Plant: Early spring or late summer
Time to Harvest: Summer or fall
Location: Full to part Sun
Soil Type: Well-drained and rich
Kale is an easy-to-grow member of the cabbage family. It’s extremely tolerant of cold weather, which makes it a popular fall ornamental, but isn’t a fan of hot temperatures. Kale is known a “cool crop” that enjoys cool nights with average daytime highs well below 25°C (80°F). In fact, the texture of kale will become almost woody in warm weather. Kale can be grown in the garden or in a pot, and with the wide range of leaf colours and textures it’s become a popular to plant it for its looks and not it’s taste!
Common Varieties: Tuscan kale is my favourite. Other varieties include Scotch kale, Siberian kale, Japanese kale and rape kale.
You have many options when growing kale: you can purchase transplants in both spring and fall, sow indoors in late winter (start 8-10 weeks before the last frost date), or direct-sow in the garden in spring. Purchasing transplants is easiest, and it gives you a jump-start on the season, though purchasing seeds will give you the greatest selection of varieties and will ensure your plants are organically grown from the start.
Plant kale in a location with lots of sun and soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter. Kale can be planted directly in flower gardens, placed in rows in vegetable gardens, or used a foliage plant in containers. (When planting in containers use potting soil.) Ideal spacing for most kale varieties is about 30 cm (12 inches).
Compost tea is a natural organic fertilizer. While there are many recipes, one of the easiest is simply taking a handful of your homemade organic compost and placing it into a cheesecloth, tying the ends. Sink this “tea bag” into a pail of water and allow to seep for 24-48 hours.
Kale is a cool-loving crop that thrives in spring, late summer and fall. Kale will survive the heat of deep summer, but you may find the flavor lacks.
Water deeply and infrequently, keep weed-free (I recommend mulching), and only fertilize when planted in containers or poor soils. Fertilize with compost tea, fish emulsion or general garden fertilizer (20-20-20). Kale will do exceptionally well without fertilizer if your soil is rich in compost or amended with manure.
Increase watering during dry periods and monitor for insects and disease: kale are victims of moths, cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and cutworms. Cut off infected leaves and spray occasionally with insecticidal soaps. I’ve never had a kale demolished by cabbage worms, however I have accidentally eaten a few of them! To prevent cutworm, make collars from paper cups and place them around the base of the plant.
Once mature, kale can be continually harvested. Harvest kale mid-morning or late afternoon, never during the heat of the day. Collect the outer leaves when the plant measures approximately 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 inches) high, or approximately 30 to 40 days from planting transplants.
When harvesting the entire plant, cut the stem 5 cm (2 inches) from the ground. Shoots will re-sprout from the stem, offering an additional harvest later in the season. The youngest leaves are the most tender. You will find kale’s flavour sweetens after frost arrives.
Harvest as needed, store only when required. Kale can last up to a week in the fridge.
PUT KALE TO WORK                              
Dull day? Brighten it up with a rainbow salad!
If you’re going to pick up just one healthy habit, it should be eating a rainbow of antioxidant-rich vegetables every day. Green “leafies” are one of the most important groups, and that makes kale key!
Make a “rainbow salad” with thinly sliced kale; red, orange, and yellow peppers; and purple onion. Top with blueberry, sprinkle with almond slivers and mini-bocconcini and add your favorite salad dressing—I think poppyseed goes best!
Craving barbs? Try braised kale with pasta!
Braise some chopped kale with olive oil, set aside and cover. Cook gluten-free penne pasta al dente. Stir in the braised kale and add onion, garlic, black olives, sundried tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, pine nuts, and feta cheese.
Looking for a side? How about naked kale.
Kale shouldn’t be overcooked, but steaming it gently can release some of its nutrients. The best way to take advantage of kale is to “shock-heat” it. Quick cooking preserves the nutrients, texture, colour, and flavour.
Cover a pound of chopped kale with a few garlic cloves and 2 tbsp of olive oil and steam for 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
Want a healthy crunch? Try kale chips!
Slice kale into small pieces the size of Doritos. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and bake for 15 minutes at 350°F for a crispy treat.
Huge health craving? Jurassic kale salad!
Cavolo nero, also called lacinato or dinosaur kale, is a very dark green variety with huge leaves. It’s ideal for this Jurassic salad!
6 cups                               dinosaur kale, sliced with midribs removed
juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime
4 tbsp                                extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp                                   organic vegetable bouillon (e.g. Harvest Sun)
2                                           cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper, to taste
hot red pepper flakes, to taste
2/3 cup                             grated Pecorino cheese (or Asiago or Parmesan)
¼ cup                                 kalamata olives, chopped
2 tbsp                                red onion, minced
½ cup                                 slivered almonds or pine nuts
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add kale to boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds to shock-heat and immediately rinse in cold water.
In a blender, process the lemon and lime juice, olive oil, vegetable bouillon powder, garlic, salt, pepper, and a generous pinch of hot red pepper flakes or to taste. Pour the dressing over the kale and toss well. Add 2/3 of the cheese, olives and red onions and toss again.
Let the salad sit for at least 5 minutes to absorb the flavours. Then add the almonds or pine nuts, toss again, and top with remaining cheese. Refrigerate and serve cold.
Fast forward to the health food store to purchase the Life Organic Raw Kale Chips or equivalent. Follow the instructions on the label.
Because 1 cup of kale can contain up to 10 times the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin K, consult your doctor before adding it to your diet. Too much vitamin K can pose problems for people taking anticoagulants such as warfarin.
Bolton-Smith C, Price RJ, Fenton ST, et al. Compilation of a provisional UK database for the phylloquinone (vitamin K1) content of foods. Br J Nutr 2000;83:389-99.
Try Kale for Vitamin K and Cancer Protection. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 2013 Jul; 31 (5): 6
Asbell R. Kale. Vegetarian Times, 2011 Jan-Feb; (382): 78-81.
Sikora E. Composition and antioxidant activity of kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala) raw and cooked. Technologia Alimentaria. 2012 Jul-Sep; Vol. 11 (3), pp. 239-48;

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