Kale harvest in the fall

Kale harvest in the fall.

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Kale has been under wraps since it was planted in June. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, cute little white cabbage butterflies use kale and broccoli as larval food plants. Their larva are ugly cabbageworms or loopers. The only way to keep cabbage butterflies away from kale is to keep the kale covered at all times. The photo above shows a lightweight bed cover, which has been kept over the kale all summer. Later this fall, I will switch to a heavier cover and see how far into the fall and winter the kale will survive.

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The covered raised bed contains both Toscano and Red Russian kale, as seen in the August 1 photo above after several cuttings. The Red Russian kale is on the left. Toscano on the right.

When I planted the fall garden in August, I had decided that the Red Russian leaves had a bad texture, so I planted only the Toscano. I’ll have a photo of the fall garden kale later. Now, I’ve realized that the rough texture of the Red Russian kale disappears with blanching. I cannot differentiate the taste one from the other. If the Toscano kale in the fall garden produces well, perhaps I’ll be better able to choose between Red Russian and Toscano for next year’s garden. Toscano is Italian kale, which is sometimes called dinosaur kale.

I always blanch kale, whether I’m using it immediately or freezing it for the winter. Not to eliminate oxalic acid, that’s not an issue with kale as it is with spinach, collards, and chard. I blanch kale to insure there are no cabbageworms. I can pop a ripe raspberry into my mouth when I’m in the garden knowing there’s a chance that a little black ant is lurking in the raspberry, although I do look before I eat. But cabbageworms. No. I don’t like worms. Well, earthworms are the gardener’s best helper although I would never eat one. Caterpillars are cute if they aren’t cabbageworms, and again, of course, I would never eat one. Otherwise. I just don’t like the thought of worms. Particularly not in my food.

So, even though I use bed covers on the kale beds, I still blanch the kale to make absolutely sure there are no cabbageworms. And this is after I have washed and inspected the kale leaves carefully. I guess I should explain here that cabbageworms will float to the top of a boiling pot of water. So blanching is a foolproof technique for guaranteeing the presence of no cabbageworms.

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Above are some Red Russian and Toscano kale leaves ready for washing and inspection.

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Here are the same leaves in a strainer ready for blanching, after being rinsed and closely inspected. Pretty, aren’t they. And think of the nutrients in them. As we all know, kale is really good nutrition-wise, and the nutrients are more available after cooking than when kale is eaten raw.

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Blanching is really simple, as I’ve written in other posts. Heat a pot of water to boiling. Dump the kale in and start the timing. 3 minutes. That’s not long. The kale turns even greener in this process, as can be seen above.

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Have an ice bath ready, just some ice cubes in water. Using tongs, transfer the kale from the boiling water to the ice bath to quickly stop the cooking process, as can be seen above.

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After 3 minutes in the ice bath, dump the kale into a colander and fish out any remaining ice cubes.

Squeeze any excess water out of the kale. I do this while the kale is in the colander, holding it over the sink with one hand and squeezing with the other. Some blanching instructions talk about folding the kale into a clean tea towel to eliminate the excess moisture. I tried that, but decided it was a waste of a clean tea towel as well as time.

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All this wrung-out kale now looks like a pretty small batch, as can be seen above. Place it on a cutting board and slice crosswise to cut the leaves and stems into small pieces, ready to stir into a winter stew.

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Well, I thought all that kale I brought in from the garden would at least fill a large Mason jar, but as can be seen above, a smaller jar could have been used. But just think of all the nutrition packed into that half-jar of kale, ready to place into the freezer for use on a cold winter’s day.

I freeze Mason jars. I’ve explained my rationale in several previous posts. No, they don’t break if the lid isn’t tightened. Sorry if you think that’s strange. Works for me.

Blanching seemed like a big deal to me until I went through the process a few times. Now that I know exactly which pots and utensils I will be using, it’s easy and and a good way to assuage my paranoia about cabbageworms with kale as well as eliminating oxalic acid from spinach, collards, and chard. A good technique to use for varying reasons.

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