I got a bit of feedback from a member who wasn’t a kale lover and prefers broccoli. I thought I’d take the opportunity to make a few remarks about why kale is a bit of a staple for the farm.
Not that it’s going to help much if you not a kale lover, but I’ll make a couple of plugs for the kale nonetheless, and also mention that it has only been in the share twice this year (unless you’re counting the collards and chard in the same category, we try to give at least one of those three most weeks). I happen to not really like broccoli much and to enjoy my kale (mostly sliced thinly and sautéed in olive oil, finished with a bit of balsamic or sherry vinegar and salt) but it’s good for me to hear that others have the opposite feeling.
The main reason we don’t grow much broccoli is agrinomic. Broccoli takes an inordinate amount of space and time and is far more expensive to produce on our scale. We are both space and time limited on the farm. Kale is very space and time efficient. One 74’ bed of kale will potentially produce at least 250-500 bunches over the year, often many more, it matures much earlier and produces for much longer, and then in the spring it also gives very tasty raab (unfortunately before we start the CSA). One 74’ bed of broccoli will only produce one harvest of heads, and only about 75-150 medium heads of broccoli at most (yes, there’s potential for side shoot production, but that is even more labor intensive to harvest, and the side shoots won’t add up to a second full harvest). Broccoli is much harder on the ground because it requires much more tillage, more fertility and more water for a similar yield. Bok choi is significantly faster and less space intensive than broccoli, but still is only a single harvest crop so ultimately it takes up more space and we grow less of it. We’ve also tried to provide napa cabbage the past two years and have had crop failures both years, but we’ll keep working on more kale alternatives. Nutritionally all of these are similar but have different strengths.
As a kale connoisseur I’ll mention that we grow two varieties of kale and there are many more with quite a diversity of leaf types and flavors. The crop spans two separate species and both are particularly suited to our climate. Kale’s flavor also changes dramatically depending on weather and season. Our fall kale harvests are much sweeter and crisper, while the spring harvests have more of the tender green flavor.
I highly recommend checking out some of Katherine’s Cook with What You Have tips on kale preparations. One thing I’ve noticed is that it gets much smaller when it’s cooked and takes up much less space in my refrigerator that way. I, personally, do not recommend steaming it and find it barely palatable prepared that way, but I love it both sautéed and raw in slaws.
Hope some of that makes sense. In the meantime I’ll keep the kale alternatives in mind as we plan for future harvests.