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Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean

Kales and Collards

Nutrient rich and cold resistant winter crops!

Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea Common Name: Kale and Collard Greens Family: Brassicaceae Description: Kales and collards are members of the Brassica family. Hence, they are related to mustards, radishes, turnips, cabbages, broccoli, and many other edible plants. (For further details about these relationships, see are easy to grow, nutritious, cool-season vegetables grown for their delicious leaves. They are extremely easy to grow in Mendocino County. Varieties: Kales and collards are varieties within the species Brassica oleracea. Collards belong in the 'acephala' variety of this species. Kales come from two varieties: B. oleracea var. 'fimbriata' (the "Siberian" or "Russian" group) and var. 'acephala' (the "Scotch" or curly-leaved group). However, the two common names (kale and collard) are not always used consistently by nurseries and seed companies. The B. oleracea species also includes these edible varieties: cabbage (var. 'capitata'), cauliflower (var. 'botrytis'), broccoli (var. 'italica'), kohlrabi (var. 'gongylodes'), and brussel sprouts (var. 'gemmifera'). Cultivation: Kale and collard greens are cold weather annuals. They can be grown all year round along the coasts in Mendocino County. Kale and collards need nitrogen to promote fast, healthy leaf growth (for example, alfalfa meal, soybean meal, cottonseed meal, feather meal, blood meal, fish meal, hoof-and-horn meal). They prefer fertile, well-drained soil, although they will grow in a wide variety of soil conditions. For a year round supply of greens, plant a new short row every month throughout the year. Kale and collards both tolerate short periods of freezing, or even below freezing, weather; they even taste sweeter after a frost! Propagation and Harvest: Select a bed that is in full sun along the coast or afternoon shade inland. Seeds can be planted directly outdoors or greenhouse seedlings can be planted out whenever the soil is 50-degrees F, or above. Prepare the seed bed with plenty of compost or manure. Plant seeds about 1/2-inch deep using the spacing described on the seed package. Seeds can emerge in 5 days, but may take up to three weeks in colder weather. Start harvesting individual outer leaves from each plant as soon as the plant has 5-6 leaves that are over 6-inches long. Harvest only what you will eat since the leaves rapidly lose their sweetness in storage. Always leave at least 4 leaves that over 6-inches long in order to maintain plant vigor and health. Once you have started harvesting from a plant, trim away any unusable outer leaves that have become tough, weather beaten, or bug eaten. This will promote rapid growth of the new leaves from the center. When a plant starts to bolt, pull it up completely, unless you want to collect the seeds for subsequent planting. Recipes and Nutrition: Kale and collards are highly nutritious. A cup of cooked kale contains over 300% of the daily requirement for vitamins K and A. In addition, it provides over 9% of the daily requirement for vitamins B6 and C, calcium, copper, and manganese, and dietary fiber. Kales in the variety acephala supply significantly higher amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese, than kales from the fimbriata variety. In addition, any cup of kale contains 2.5 grams of well-balanced, almost complete protein. Each cup has only 36 calories. A cup of cooked collard greens provides over 300% of the daily requirement for vitamins A and K. It contains over 25% of the daily requirements for dietary folate, vitamin C, calcium, and manganese, over 10% of iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, and riboflavin, and 4 grams of well-balanced, almost complete protein. Each cup has 49 calories. Ideas for Eating: - Stir fry a large pile of chopped leaves in a small amount of oil until wilted, then add 1/2 cup (or so) of vinegar or lime juice and put a lid onto the pan to steam the greens until completely soft. Cooking time will be longer than for spinach or mustard. Be forewarned that cooking reduces the volume significantly; to serve 2 cups of cooked greens, start with about a quart of chopped greens. Optional other ingredients: salt, garlic, onion, bacon, sausage. Serve like cooked spinach. - Throw a hand-full of chopped leaves into soup during the last 15 minutes of cooking.