We grow a lot of leafy greens in our garden including kale. But we treat it a bit differently by pruning it to turn it into a perennial plant that can keep feeding us for a few years.
We planted our kale as little seedlings and as they grow we only harvest just the mature leaves around the base. This encourages the plant to grow a trunk and it will just continue growing higher and higher until you have something that starts to look like a tree.
We grow is curly kale, but I've also used this technique with Tuscan kale. The kale trees in our garden at the moment are about two years old. There are a few things you can do to keep your kale growing longer.
After a while you'll notice little leaves will start to grow out of the trunk, if you leave them they will become bigger. You can leave them to grow if you like, but usually I will scrap them off really quickly by dragging my hands down the trunk. The reason for this is to focus all the plant's energy to the top.
If your plant is getting older and you're worried about it falling over because it is so tall, or it's starting to show sights of dying off, you can prune it back to the base. It will shoot new leaves up again and you just keep repeating the process.
My oldest kale plant lasted for about three to four years by pruning it back quite low to allow it to grow again.
We love these little tips because it means we have fresh greens year round. So rather than growing just lettuces or rocket plants, which require a lot of water and attention, these hardy kale plants become perennial. We always look at how we can angle our food crops to be more perennial because they are high yielding with low input.
If you're wondering how to eat this beautifully nutritious plant, I'm a big fan of just steaming it with veggies, adding it to stirfries and soups or making kale chips.
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There is only so much steamed kale you can eat, so we've branched out to make kale chips. Without even trying you can end up eating anywhere between 5 - 10 leaves and that's got to be good for you!
We've got two varieties growing, tuscan and curly kale, the curly kale is by far our favourite as it's sweeter and scrumptious fresh in salads or just to chew on while you're gardening.
Does it matter what type of kale you use when making chips? I don't think so, have a play and see what works for you. Here's how we make them:
Step 1: Harvest your leaves and give them a good wash. De-stem each leaf and cut them into bite size pieces.
Step 2: Pop them in a large bowl and drizzle olive oil over top (or any desired oil), then massage the leaves thoroughly until they sparkle with an oily shine.
Step 3: In the same bowl add some additional flavours. We simply pour some tamari (fermented soy) over the top of them and mix it in. You could also just use salt, assorted spices or smashed up garlic juice.
Step 4: Spread the leafy chips evenly onto a baking tray. Make sure you don't pile them on top of one another as this prevents them from going crispy in the oven.
Step 5: Put into a hot oven (around 200 degrees) and then do not leave the kitchen. Do not go feed the chooks, make a phone call or check on your garden. If you do any of these things your kale chips will burn, I speak from personal experience. These little beauties only need around five to 10 minutes. Check at five minutes and then every minute after that.
They're ready once their edges have gone a nice brown and when you touch them, they'll feel "crispy".
For more tips on growing your own food, check out Hannah's new book: The Good Life: How to Grow a Better World.
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