Kale is the king when it comes to leafy nutrition
RODOLFO ROMANIf there is a vegetable characterized as protecting against disease or sickness, kale is king.
Published: February 27, 2013
Published: February 27, 2013
Kale, which is closely related to cabbage, can be linked to reducing cholesterol, anti-inflammatory properties and supports cardiovascular health.
Thankfully, the vegetable can be grown in the Sunshine State. It is primarily grown in Florida backyards, said John McLaughlin, a home gardening adviser who works for the University of Florida Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources.
"It is mostly a backyard garden crop – maybe some widely scattered growers," he said. "The principal cabbage growing area in Florida is in the northeast, like in Flagler and St John's counties."
The vegetable's origins come from Europe. Here in Florida, it is a cool-season crop and has a short planting season. For example, in South Florida, the season is from November to January. Many are beginning to grow it.
"It appears to be gaining in popularity with local backyard growers, but is probably not familiar to immigrants from the tropics, where it would need to be grown in cooler highlands," McLaughlin said.
Kale has been given the alias name of the new beef and has also been called a nutritional powerhouse. The vegetable is low in calories, high in fiber and has zero fat and aids digestion. With cancer numbers increasing on a daily basis, kale can help protect against the disease because it is filled of powerful antioxidants.
The plant also contains sulforaphane, which has been credited with anti-cancer properties. It is also rich in vitamins C, A, K, carotene, calcium and is great as a detox food.
The good news for Floridians is that the crop can be grown in a backyard, but the short season makes it challenging for growers.
"The main problem is the short season," McLaughlin said. "Kale is not suited to hot weather. The maximum is 75 degrees. Above this, quality declines with leaves becoming less compact and increasingly bitter."
To grow, the vegetable requires a sunny site with moist, enriched but free-draining soil. However, the grower must be cautious with the soil the kale is being grown.
"On sandy soil incorporate organic matter, compost, dried manure, while constructing a raised bed is recommended for rocky sites," he said. "It is usual to sow seeds directly, however they can be used to grow transplants. A complete fertilizer can be incorporated into the soil."
It takes about two months from planting a seed to harvest.
The vegetable is highly perishable and needs to be kept close to 32 degrees under high humidity.
There is no precise time for growers to pick kale. As it reaches a suitable size and becomes too bitter, backyard growers can periodically remove outer leaves. There is a single harvest of the entire rosette of leaves for commercial production.
Most kale arrives to Florida from other areas, but it depends on the time of year. In the late fall, the Sunshine State receives the kale from the southeast states, while during the summer the vegetable comes from northern state growers.
"It has been regarded as a minor vegetable usually lumped together with collards and mustard greens," McLaughlin said.