Spring has been slow to get growing; this time last year I was cooking with zucchini and tomatoes but they haven’t popped up yet this season. Instead of tables full of veggies, produce vendors at the farmers market had tables full of seedlings, and lots of asparagus. I’ve spent the past year shopping without a grocery list at farmers markets, buying only what produce they were selling each week, and this week was no different.
I bought a pack of four Winterbor kale seedlings from Natick Community Organic Farm and planted them in a large wooden barrel. The soil at my house is very sandy and not very good for gardening, so I’ve been utilizing pots and barrels full of organic compost and soil. This Memorial Day weekend is a lot colder than it has been in the past, affording me extra time to plant seedlings. While at the market, I saw Casey Townsend, Assistant Director at Natick Community Organic Farm, and he offered to pick a bunch of kale for me that I could get later that week from the farm. It pays to make friends in farm places!
Each of these seedlings, measuring 6 inches in height now, can grow up to 2 feet in height and width. Once the plant has grown and is ready for harvest, start by picking the leaves at the bottom and on the outside, that way you pick the oldest leaves first. If you think you’re going to eat the leaves, cut them a couple days early rather than a couple days late; the longer leaves stay on the plant, the more tough and bitter they get. But don’t pick the plant bare! Always leave a few leaves on to encourage regrowth, and be careful not to cut the bud because the plant cannot regrow from that.
I picked up a small bunch of Siberian kale from NCOF, a hearty, winter variety of kale. As you can imagine from the name, this kale grows well in cold climates, and is perfect for this cold spring. I was thinking of tossing it with some homemade Caesar dressing or baking the leaves with a little olive oil and sea salt to make chips. What’s your favorite way to use kale?
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist and creator of The Clean Food Club. She previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.