Before you begin, you’ll need to make sure that your kale plant is ready to harvest. You’ll know when it’s ready when it’s about 12 inches tall and the leaves are the size of your hand or bigger. Leaves that are the size of your palm are younger and more tender whereas the bigger leaves will be older and a bit tougher.
If you harvest kale correctly, the plant will continue to grow and produce leaves. If you cut the plant off at the top or harvest the smaller leaves growing in the center, it is very likely that you will kill the plant. You need to leave that center area at the top of the stem for the plant to keep on producing.
You can pick spring-planted kale all summer, but leaves may get tough and bitter when heat arrives. Quality improves again in fall and plants continue growing even winter in mild climates. The following spring, though, they will bolt.
Kale is one of the only greens that you can wash and prep days in advance—it’s so hardy that it rarely wilt. You can stem, slice or tear the leaves, rinse them, dry them well in a salad spinner or with kitchen towels, and store the leaves, wrapped in a paper towel in a zip-top plastic bag, for up to 3 days.
How to Harvest Kale Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are about the size of your hand. Pick about one fistful of leaves per harvest. Avoid picking the terminal bud (found at the top center of the plant) because this will help to keep the plant productive. Kale will continue growing until it’s 20°F.
Living for 5-6 years, ‘Daubenton’ is perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 6-9, and hardy down to 10°F. When the plant starts to near the end of its life, a root cutting can be taken from it to start a new plant, so you can keep this variety growing in your garden for as long as you keep propagating it.
Kale can bolt the following spring when it overwinters in your garden. When the temperatures begin to warm it can send up a flower stalk because it is a biennial plant that produces flowers and seed the second year of its life cycle. The leaves will become more bitter when it bolts.
Use the frizzled stems to top salads, grain bowls, and even casseroles. “Your green bean casserole will never be the same,” says Baraghani. Cucumbers, it’s been fun—but it’s time to take our pickling to the next level. Chop raw kale stems and submerge them in a pickling brine with sugar, salt, and any spices you want.
But more important, these are flowers you can, and should, eat. When the brassica vegetables bolt after the long winter, the flowers they produce are tender and delicious.
Kale is a biennial that many people grow as an annual, advises Cornell University. Some varieties of kale are perennial plants that come back year after year.
Kale (Brassica oleracea) is a leafy green vegetable and member of the cabbage family. Varieties include lacinato, red Russian, and dinosaur kale. Avoid planting kale with other brassicas (like broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and Swiss chard), as they can fall prey to the same pests and diseases.
How to wash kale Soak chopped kale in a large bowl or container of ice water. Use a slotted spoon to remove the kale to a colander or salad spinner insert. Repeat this process if the kale is particularly dirty. Then, rinse the kale under cold running water. Finally, use a salad spinner to dry the kale thoroughly.
Any raw kale can be frozen. So the next time you purchase too much at the store, don’t let it go to waste. Simply wash, chop, blanch, then flash- freeze your kale to enjoy at a later date. Frozen kale will keep up to one year, and can be used in a number of recipes.
But is frozen kale just as good as its fresh counterpart at providing nutrients? Fiber, minerals and fat-soluble nutrients such as beta-carotene and vitamin K are not easily destroyed by blanching or freezing, so just like fresh kale, frozen kale is loaded with these nutrients.
Kale should be stored in the refrigerator, and kept in a plastic tub or bag. Since kale needs to breathe, it’s best if the bag or tub does not seal completely, but allows for some air flow.