When To Harvest Kale

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We’re always being told to eat our greens, and kale is one of the most powerful greens you can include in your diet.

This bitter, salty leafy green is a powerhouse of nutrients, and if you’re into growing veggies, you’ll be pleased to know that you grow it directly in your garden!

When To Harvest Kale

Want to get started on your kale-growing journey? Keep reading to learn more about growing and harvesting your new favorite leafy green. 

What Is Kale? 

This green, cruciferous vegetable belongs to the cabbage family and boasts green or purple leaves.

This distinctively dark green can be cooked or eaten raw, and it has recently been hailed a ‘superfood’ thanks to its impressive nutrient profile, which boasts an abundance of antioxidants, and vitamins including A, C, and K. 

If you want to grow kale yourself, good news: it’s pretty easy to grow, even for beginners (see also “How To Cut Kale“). However, growing kale is just one part of the process, because you’ll also need to know when to harvest it.

With the right timing and methods, you can yield some super tasty greens to serve up at dinner! 

How To Grow Kale 

This easy-to-grow vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse, and it also harvests over a long period, so when grown correctly, you can expect a pretty generous yield. 

Kale can withstand growing in light shade, and it can still thrive even in cold temperatures. Ideally, your seeds should be sown in a seedbed and later transplanted to their final positions.

We’d recommend sowing your seeds between March and June in the sun or shade. Before you sow your seeds, weed the area thoroughly and rake the soil.

Once your seedlings start to germinate, you should thin them out and leave at least 3 inches of space between each plant, as overcrowding can quickly kill off your plant. 

Don’t forget to apply quality mulch like 100% Natural Cedar Shavings Mulch around your plants to retain moisture in the soil! 

Never let your kale dry out. This plant requires consistent moisture (but not too boggy), so aim to water it with at least one to two inches of water per week.

This is why mulch is essential because it will help keep this moisture in and prevent your kale from drying out. 

When Should You Pick Kale? 

2 months after your seeds have been sown, your kale should be ready to pick. At this point, your plants will be healthy and should have produced within the region of ten leaves.

You’ll usually see smaller leaves at the center of the plant and larger ones on the outside. However, if you want to pick baby kale, aim to pick it around 25 days after the seeds are sown.

Your kale will be ready to harvest once in the late spring or summer months and then once again in the fall. If you wait too long to pick your kale, your leaves may become discolored. 

How To Harvest Kale  

How To Harvest Kale  

If you harvest your kale correctly, you’ll end up with a fresh batch every time. This will make it perfect for cooking in soups, stews, or even raw in salads! 

Harvesting is surprisingly easy, and there are only a few things you need to know. 

First off, when you’re ready to harvest, simply grasp a leaf with one hand and cut the base (near the stem) with a pair of sharp shears or scissors.

When you harvest your kale, be careful not to cut the root of your plant. Your kale plant will continue to produce leaves for quite a while after harvesting, and if you cut the root, you risk not encouraging any new growth.

So, when you cut your leaves near the base, make sure you leave everything else on the plant alone, including any new growth, visible stems, and especially the roots. 

When it’s time to harvest, we’d also recommend picking off the largest and oldest leaves first.

These can be found near the base of the plant, and they’ll be closest to going bitter, which means they’ll have the best taste and give you the most authentic kale-eating experience.

Harvesting these leaves first will also ensure your plant continues to produce new growth. 

Another important thing to remember is that you should NEVER pick the terminal bud.

The terminal bud sits at the center of the plant, and if you maintain its position, your plant will keep being productive for a much longer period. 

Remember: regular harvests are important. If you neglect to harvest the leaves regularly, they’ll die off pretty quickly and you’ll be wasting your kale.

Plus, every time leaves die on the plant, it discourages the kale from producing more growth.

Once you’ve done a harvest, we’d recommend coming back every week to check for new leaves, and remove any mature ones that you see. 

Harvesting In Fall 

Your kale plant will also produce new growth in the fall, and it’s essential to wait until after the first frost to harvest it.

Believe it or not, a frost won’t damage your kale, and it will actually give it a much sweeter taste!

Frost will increase the amount of sugar in the leaves, so if you like sweet kale, harvest AFTER (not before) the first frost. 

When you do harvest your kale, make sure you remove any yellow or spotted leaves. If left on the plant, these will drain energy away from the kale and prevent the new growth from getting the nutrients it needs.

Removing damaged leaves is the best way to extend your harvest, so don’t neglect it! 

The Bottom Line 

Even if you’re new to running a vegetable garden, you can try growing kale.

This nutrient-dense leafy green is a powerhouse of nutrients, and it’s so easy to grow that you have no excuse not to try it yourself!

Although kale can withstand the cold, just remember to keep it covered in the depths of winter to keep it as fresh as possible. Once harvested, consume your kale within at least two weeks. 

Further Recommendations:

Video: When and How to Harvest Kale

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