In the recent years, kale has slowly progressed its way into our diets. Whether in a soup, salad or smoothie, it is definitely one of the most nutritious plant foods in existence. Kale, also known as leaf cabbage, belongs to the Brassica group. There are many varieties of kale characterised by their leaf type (curly, bumpy or plain), leaf colour (green or purple) and edible or ornamental. Consuming kale has endless benefits. Kale contains calcium, vitamins K and C, antioxidants and a wide variety of other nutrients. There are lots of scientific studies which prove that the consumption of foods such a kale, can lower the risk of diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. Because of the high amounts of calcium and phosphorus that kale contains, it is an excellent food for healthy bone formation. In addition, high fibre aids in a healthy digestive tract and its good source of beta-carotene our body can then convert it into Vitamin A essential for growth and maintenance of all body tissues. Kale is high in energy, protein and also iron providing a wide range of Vitamin Bs to our bodies.
While this crop tends to grow best in temperate regions, it can be easily cultivated here in the tropics using the relevant guidelines. Start by sourcing the healthiest seedlings you can find, to increase the chances of survival. Curly-leaved kale grows best in this climate, during the cooler months of November to February and is ready to harvest in at least 60 days. Kale seedlings need to be germinated in nursery beds or simply an up-cycled cup with drainage holes before being transplanted to the main plot, when they grow to about 3 inches tall. Flat-leaved kale can be sown in-situ. Germination begins in 5-8 days and from this point, the seedlings can be slowly introduced to sunlight for about two hours a day, if so much.
When it comes to transplanting your seedlings, the most ideal soil type for kale growth, is a sandy loam soil with good organic content, as rich manure, to make it slightly acidic. With our climate, a soil type with good drainage capabilities should be used. You should try keeping the soil as moist as possible and consider providing shade to your crops during midday and early afternoon to avoid sun scorching. The plot for your kale crops should be weed-free, especially in the early growth stages. Tend to this issue as regularly as possible until the leaves grow out large enough to cover the soil and block out sunlight so that weeds cannot thrive. For fuller and more tender leaves, organic fertilizers with high nitrogen richness should be applied monthly.
Being a part of the cabbage family means kale would be susceptible to pests such as cabbage worms, caterpillars, aphids and other organisms known to attack leafy vegetables. To control this problem, organic pesticides, for example neem oil as used in India for kale cultivation, can be sprayed on your crops to ward off pests. Always keep in mind, our climate, even when it comes to harvesting. Extreme heat can have adverse effects on the texture and size of your kale leaves, so it is best to harvest your kale leaves during the morning when they are most tender. This can be done by cutting your most mature leaves as close to the bottom of the stalk as you can. As a way to encourage new growth after your first harvest, leave the bud—the top portion—of your plant, uncut.