Kale, Winter Stalwart

I've wondered in the last few weeks whether the allotment would be more productive if I dismantle my compost bins and use the wood to make a raft. The rain has been incessant and other than an occasional sodden dash to harvest something for dinner the vegetable garden and allotment have become no-go areas.

This time of year is a lean one in the vegetable plot, but one reliable stalwart is kale. It's easy to grow, full of vitamins and iron, tastes delicious and even looks attractive in the garden.

You can pick off as many leaves as you need from several plants, and the plant will keep on going. Harvest the leaves before they get big and tough.

Kale doesn't mind growing in some light shade and is pretty tolerant of most things nature can throw at it. White fly are fans of kale but they don't seem to do much damage and as long as the leaves are washed well before using it's not a huge issue.

In previous years I've only grown curly kale (I like Winterbor), but this July I planted a few cavolo nero seeds too for a change. I used Nero Di Toscana.

In an interesting twist, the dark flatter leaves of the cavolo nero don't seem as attractive to the white fly. Both the curly and the flat leaved ones are growing in the same location. I presume the curly surface provides a more secure and comfortable whitefly home.


Kale and Pine Nut Penne Pasta

Serves 2.

2 tblsp olive oil for frying
1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil to add at the end.
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
A good handful of thyme leaves, stripped from the stalk and roughly chopped
8 or 9 medium sized kale leaves (it looks a lot, but it reduces in cooking)
50g (1 ¾ oz) pine nuts, toasted under a grill for 5 minutes (shake them about half way through to brown them evenly)
50g (1 ¾ oz) parmesan cheese, grated.
200g (7 oz) penne pasta

  • Fold the kale leaves in half lengthwise and cut out and discard the tough stem. Then slice the leaves into short strips.
  • Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped garlic and thyme. Don’t have the heat too high or the garlic will burn and taste bitter.
  • After a minute or so when the garlic has softened, add the chopped kale leaves and parmesan cheese. Stir, put a lid on and cook very gently for 5 minutes while you cook the pasta (if you’re using dried pasta you’ll need to start the pasta cooking first).
  • When the pasta is ready and the kale is tender take a tablespoon of the pasta cooking water out the pasta pan and add it to the kale pan. The starchy water helps the flavours come together. Then drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the kale.
  • Mix well and stir in the extra virgin olive oil. Mix well again and serve with the toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top. Delicious, and healthy too!

Don’t skimp on the parmesan or the pine nuts, these flavours are important to this dish.


Links to varieties mentioned in this Post: Kale Winterbor, Kale Nero di Toscana

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