In the past few years, the word “kale” has become synonymous with health, and not without good reason. This nutrient-packed member of the cabbage family is rich in vitamins and minerals and tastes good to boot! As if that weren’t enough to make you want to fill your garden with this tasty plant, most types of kale are also relatively easy to grow thanks to their ability to withstand cooler temperatures. Like many other hearty greens, the leaves’ flavor will actually improve if exposed to cooler temperatures, so light frosts are your friend instead of foe. There are many different varieties of kale, but almost all types are either purple or green in color with broad or curly leaves.
Nero di Toscana kale is an heirloom Italian kale variety which is very winter hardy and also tolerant of hot weather. Dark green, narrow leaves have a crumpled texture. It is sometimes called Dinosaur kale, Lacinato kale, Tuscan kale, black cabbage, or black palm. Plants will grow to 1–2′ tall. Harvest begins early for tender young leaves but will continue to grow for several months as the plant reaches full size.
Seed Depth: 1/4–1/2″
Space Between Plants: 8–12″
Space Between Rows: 18–30″
Germination Soil Temperature: 45–95°F
Days for Germination: 5–10
Sow Indoors: 6 weeks before last frost.
Sow Outdoors: As soon as ground can be worked.
Vegetative: Not recommended, but can be started from root cuttings.
Can be planted either in the spring just prior to the last frost or in the fall, leaving approximately 6 to 8 weeks before the first average frost for the plants to grow. In USDA Zones 8 and warmer, it can continue to be planted throughout the duration of the fall for harvest in the winter. Although plants will be richer in flavor when they are allowed to grow in cooler weather, they are tolerant of most climates.
Natural: Full sun. Partial shade in warmer climates.
Artificial: For indoor growing, consider fluorescent or LED lamps as they are cooler than other bulbs.
Soil: Prefers loamy, nutrient-rich soil. A pH of 6.2 to 6.8 well keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Germinate seeds in a soilless potting mix.
Hyrdroponics: Will thrive in a hydroponic system. Kale varieties are stoked in vertical systems.
Aeroponics: Will thrive in an aeroponic system.
Water: Requires high levels of water from planting to when seedlings appear. Aim for about 1 to 1.5″ per week.
Nutrients: A moderate feeder, make sure soil has average potassium and phosphorous levels prior to planting. Surprisingly, considering its large leaves, Tuscan Kale does not prefer nitrogen-rich soil.
Foliar: Feedings of fish emulsion or seaweed extract can help plants grow throughout the season.
Pruning: Pick off leaves towards the bottom of the plant if they become discolored or tough.
Rotation: Although not necessary, rotating kale crops every couple of years can help keep soil healthy. Avoid following cabbage.
Companions: Grows well with onions, potatoes, beets, cucumbers, lettuce and other kale varieties. Avoid pole beans and tomatoes.
Harvest: Can be harvested at any stage but is best when leaves reach approximately 5–6″ in length. Leaves can be picked off by hand. Pick as close to the main stem as possible. If remnants of the leaves stem is left, the plant will continue to send nutrients to this part of the plant, taking energy away from other leaves. Entire plants can be harvested by cutting about 2″ above the soil.
Storage: Will store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Only wash when you are ready to use.
Fun Fact: Although named after a region in Italy, this type of kale is not called “Tuscan” by Italians. Instead, they refer to it as black cabbage even though it is neither cabbage nor black.
Preserve: Can be blanched and frozen or dehydrated and turned into a powder.
Prepare: Slightly tough, kale can be eaten raw but tends to soften a bit when massaged (literally!) with oil, avocado, etc. Kale is also a popular addition to soups, stews, and juices. It may also be baked in the oven to make kale chips.
Nutritional: Considered by many to be a “superfood,” kale possesses large amount of vitamins(s) C, K, A, and fiber. It’s also rich in many minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, iron, and manganese.
Medicinal: Has been attributed with possessing many chemicals and properties that can assist in preventing cancer and improving bone health.
Feel like you’re in need of a health boost? Try this chopped Tuscan Kale Salad.