Packed with fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients, kale is a type of cabbage cultivar loved by home gardeners because of its edible leaves.
It is best eaten raw in salads or mixed in smoothies for its strong earthy flavor.
Consequently, kale also offers plenty of health benefits even when cooked.
When to harvest kale? This popular veggie is ready for harvesting once the leaves are almost the same size as your hand. Planted kale from seeds matures around 70 days, while transplanted ones are ready for harvest within 55 to 60 days.
How Do You Know When Your Kale Is Ready to Harvest?
Around two months after planting kale seeds, you will see healthy plants with upward leaves, smaller in the center and larger ones on the outer part.
Although there is no specific time for picking kale, harvesting usually happens twice—one in summer and another in autumn.
Depending on the season and growing zone, you can harvest new leaves a week or two after your first harvest.
For those who like smaller leaves with a milder flavor, baby kale is ready for picking 25 to 30 days after planting.
It is also more tender, making it perfect for raw eating in salads.
If you prefer larger greens, wait until it matures and is in its right size.
However, you wouldn’t want to wait too long, as older leaves will discolor and fall off.
How to Harvest Kale?
Kale comes in different varieties, but you can harvest all kinds in the same way, whether flat, curly, green, or purple.
There is just a small difference in harvesting mature and baby kale, though both do not require any special tools.
Gathering Mature Kale
The larger leaves on the outer part of the plant are the mature kale, and gathering them is pretty effortless.
First, get a firm grip on one of the stems from the bottom of the main stalk and pull it down until it breaks.
Do the same process for all the mature kale that you want to collect, making sure you leave at least five leaves in the center.
The remaining central leaves will help in the production of new growth for another batch of harvest.
You can also use a cutting tool if your growing zone has soft soil.
Using scissors or a knife will prevent the plant from being uprooted.
Picking Baby Kale
Some home gardeners prefer baby kale when making salads because it is more tender than mature ones.
More often than not, these leaves are ready for picking after 25 to 30 days.
Harvesting baby kale is easier compared to picking bigger and older leaves.
You can collect individual leaves of baby kale by pinching off each one from the base of the stem.
Some prefer cutting one stem at a time with scissors.
Others grab a handful and use a knife to slash them off about an inch or two from the bottom.
The process of leaving the base planted on the ground will allow it to produce new leaves for you to harvest.
The growth point of the kale plant is its central portion, where all the stems gather and new leaves come out.
Hence, cutting the stems a few inches above the growth point ensures that the kale plant grows new leaves.
Harvesting Kale After a Frost
Kale belongs to the cold-hardy plant variety where the cool weather helps enhance its sweet and nutty flavor.
The freezing temperature intensifies the sugar level found in kale leaves; thus, harvesting them after a frost gives them a sweeter flavor.
Harvesting Kale During Summer
Since kale is a cold-hardy plant, it will not survive in the heat as much as it will in cool weather.
A kale plant sown in a hot climate will only produce a tough and bitter leaf that is almost impossible to eat.
However, you can still harvest kale leaves during summer and prevent the plant from dying completely.
When the heat becomes too much for the kale plant, it is better to remove 90 percent of the leaves.
Choose the good and edible leaves for your consumption, and use the worn-out ones are for composting.
Remember to spare some of the smaller leaves from the top of the stem, as it is where you will find new growth after summer is over.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Kale?
As mentioned, you don’t just grab a leaf and break it from its stem. There is a proper way to pick kale.
Harvesting it the right way allows the kale plant to grow and produce new leaves longer.
However, wrongly picking kale may stop it from producing new growth altogether and eventually kill the plant.
Kale grows leaves from the top of the stem and matures as days pass, producing more greens.
Hence, always gather the largest and oldest leaves first, which you’ll find on the outermost part of the kale plant closest to the base.
Apart from leaving the central part of the plant, only pick around two-thirds of the greens to keep it productive.
Do not allow the leaves to stay on the plant longer than necessary, as they will turn yellow and wither.
Also, if you are not harvesting enough, your kale plant will start attracting aphids and other pests and insects.
Should You Wash Kale After Harvesting?
You must wash your harvest thoroughly to remove all the accumulated dirt from your garden.
Just make sure that you dry it thoroughly before storing it.
Here is a step-by-step guide to washing kale properly.
Step 1: Chop the kale and soak it in a bowl full of ice water. Then, loosen the dirt on the leaves by stirring it around.
Step 2: Transfer the kale to a colander using a slotted spoon to ensure all the dirt stays in the water.
Step 3: Repeat the process if you still see some dirt on the vegetables.
Step 4: Rinse the kale under running tap water.
Step 5: Lastly, dry the kale thoroughly using a salad spinner. If you don’t own one, you can simply pat them dry with clean kitchen towels.
Can You Eat Kale Immediately After Harvesting?
Is it safe to eat freshly harvested kale? Or do you need to cook them first before you can do so?
As mentioned earlier, kale, especially the smaller leaves, is usually added raw to salads and smoothies because of its tenderness and delicacy.
You can also eat larger kale leaves uncooked, but they tend to have a tougher texture and are better eaten when cooked.
There are numerous ways to incorporate kale into your favorite dishes.
How Do You Prepare Kale?
Kale is one of the most nutritious leafy greens you can grow in your home garden.
To get those nutrients, you must know how to prepare them the right way.
Removing the Stems from Curly Kale Leaves
You can remove the stem of kale in two ways—using a chef’s knife or a kitchen gadget called a leaf stripper.
Cutting Stems off With a Knife
If you are adept with a kitchen knife, you can follow this method with ease.
Simply fold the leaf in half and hold it down, ensuring that the stem is exposed.
Then, carefully slice the stem off the leaves using the edges of your chef’s knife.
Removing Kale Stems Using a Leaf Stripper
A leaf stripper is a useful kitchen gadget for removing stems from kale. It also comes in handy when preparing various herbs.
This tool has different hole sizes. Look for the one where your kale stem fits, or you may need to strip off the thick part first.
After inserting one end of the stem into the hole, simply pull it through to the other side, stripping it from the leaf.
Removing the Stems from Flat Kale Leaves
Not all kale plants have curly leaves. For instance, the Tuscan kale comes with flat leaves and is more delicate than the other variety.
For this reason, we don’t recommend a leaf stripper when removing the stem.
Instead, lay the flat kale leaf on your chopping board and run the edges of a paring knife between the stem and the leaf.
Then, perform the same process on the other side to detach the stem from the leaf completely.
How To Reduce the Bitter Taste of Kale
As healthy as it is, not everyone likes how kale tastes like.
Fortunately, you can remove some of that bitter taste if you prepare it the right way.
As mentioned, cold weather improves the vegetable’s flavor, adding more sweetness to its taste.
Cutting the leafy greens before you wash them helps remove some of their bitterness.
You can also soak the sliced kale in ice-cold water before rinsing it in running water.
Lastly, try serving the greens with something sweeter to balance its bitter flavor.
Now that you know how and when to harvest kale, you can now enjoy its nutritional benefits.
Add it to your salads for an earthy flavor, or mix it with your green smoothie for a nutrition boost.
With it in your diet, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a healthier body.