Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
September, 2006
Regional Report

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'Lacinata' and 'Redbor' kale are mild and delicious additions to the cool-season vegetable garden.

Let's Hear It for Broccoli and Kale!

The arrival of fall brings the best gardening season of the year. Of all the cool-season vegetables, broccoli and kale are among my favorites. These two veggies are hardy, delicious, easy to grow, and nutritious.

One cup of kale provides well over 100 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin A and 90 percent of your vitamin C needs. It's also an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, and fiber. Kale contains several different phytonutrients that fight various types of cancer, and carotenoids that promote eye health.

Broccoli is likewise high in vitamins A, C, and K, has high levels of fiber, and contains sulforaphane, which has been shown to hamper the growth of existing tumors and to deter the onset of new ones. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, have identified chemicals in broccoli that kill the bacteria responsible for many ulcers and stomach cancers. The chemical is able to reach these bacteria in the human digestive system and destroy them, even antibiotic-resistant strains.

In the Kitchen
Here in the south we are quite familiar with collards, while kale has been more popular in the north. This is changing as southern gardeners discover kale's many attributes. There are different leaf forms -- ruffled leaves or smooth or embossed -- and colors -- blue-green to deep red-purple.

There is quite a difference in flavor between different varieties. I like to eat some varieties fresh, especially 'Red Russian' and 'Lacinato'. Although kale is much milder than mustard and many of the cabbage relatives, it does have some pungency and seems best suited in a mix of fresh greens.

Kale can be substituted for spinach in recipes. It is also good in soups, stir-fries, and omelets. The most common method of preparation is to either steam or simmer it and serve it as a side dish. Sauteed with garlic is another great option. Just don't cook it too long or much of the health benefits can be lost and the texture will turn to mush. The best approach is to select young, tender leaves and cook them only until tender.

Broccoli produces a central flower bud or head that should be harvested after reaching its full size, usually about 7 inches in diameter, but before the head starts to loosen as the individual florets prepare to open. The key to tasty broccoli is not to overcook it. The less cooking, the better, as overcooking can result in a strong off-flavor. After the main head is harvested, the plant will produce side shoots to extend the harvest season.

In the Garden
These two wonderful vegetables are quite cold hardy. Kale is the hardier of the two, withstanding most anything a lower south winter can throw at it. Broccoli plants are also hardy but the heads may be damaged by cold that does not damage the plants, so be ready to cover them on nights with an expected hard freeze.

Plant healthy transplants and begin fertilizing them right away to encourage quick establishment and vigorous growth. They love fall growing even more than spring. Keep an eye out for caterpillars. A prompt spray of B.t. on the foliage will shut them down before they do much damage.

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