(Black Tuscan Kale from digital flowerpictures. blogspot.com)
Mid-winter: the point where I am perfectly happy to eat virtually the same thing for dinner for almost two weeks in a row. Stored apples are no longer worth eating, and my stash of frozen blueberries is sadly decimated. And yet there remains two feet of snow/ice/frozen goop on the ground and I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to get the lid off the compost container in the garden. I’d say there is no hope, except that seed catalogues are starting to arrive and the days are getting longer (daylight! after work!). Seed catalogues are remarkably reviving. I’ve ordered some of the basics for my community garden, but the exciting varieties are still to be chosen. The standards– green/yellow bush beans, peas, turnips, broccoli, spinach, and even a few tomatoes (yes, heirloom) for the masses– have all been ordered. What I’m contemplating is what new things to try this year, or what oldies to bring back. Ground cherries? Flying saucer summer squash (supposedly they do quite nicely as winter squash as well, but I find there is too little flesh for the effort)? Should we even bother with carrots? Maybe some hot peppers? Some weird type of eggplant?
Definitely, I’m ordering the black lung kale (known to much of the rest of the world as Black Tuscan kale). It’s the one vegetable that I’m truly enamored with. I find it to be downright beautiful: graceful on the plant, complex and deeply green on the plate. This variety of kale is surprisingly tender, with a mottled texture that takes well to both eating raw (when muddled aka tenderized) and cooking lightly. Even better, kale is one of the best vegetable sources of minerals out there as well as having numerous handy little vitamins and anitoxidants. Basically, it’s good for your blood, your eyes, your bones, your brain, and your digestive tract.
Some people have been known to overwinter it, but I’ve never tried. Generally, I just have a day of boiling water, dripping kale, and freezer bags towards the end of the season. It defrosts quite nicely, for eating plain or tossing into pasta, stews, stir-frys or almost anywhere else you want something green and leafy. I threw a bag in a pan of cooked onions, garlic, oregano, sliced roasted red peppers, chickpeas, and a little block of frozen basil this weekend and was surprised as always how much better it is than a box of frozen spinach from the store. The kale held its shape well, and provided a nice earthy counterpoint to pasta and a sprinkle of feta and that was equally lovely as leftovers without the pasta the next day. Not to mention it was mostly organic (non-organic seeds) and pretty much free.
But what else to plant…