Kale is one of the most important vegetables for survivalist gardeners. This nutrition-packed superfood is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals to keep the body strong and healthy. One cup of raw kale contains 206% daily value of Vitamin A, 684% Vitamin K, and 134% Vitamin C.
This guide breaks down all you need to know about how to harvest kale from your survival garden once the leaves mature, and for years to come.
Excited to try a bowl of kale for salad from your survival garden?
Let’s put in the groundwork first!
1. Growing and Caring for Kale
How to harvest kale? The process of harvesting kale begins long before its green leaves mature. It starts by planting the kale seeds, growing the plants, and caring for them.
Let’s take a look at what growing kale entails.
Kale Varieties to Grow in Your Survival Garden
Here are some of the recommended kale varieties that are easy to grow for beginners:
Planting and Caring for Kale
Kale is a cool-season vegetable that thrives in the crisp climates of spring, fall, and winter.
If you live in a region with mild winters, you can plant and harvest kale all year. However, if you live in parts of the world with freezing winter temperatures, you should harvest kale after the frost blanket. But that’s only if you plant it in late summer or late winter.
Here are some things to remember when planting and caring for kale:
- Kale grows best in fertile, well-drained soil under full sunlight.
- Kale needs one to 1.5 inches of water per week.
- The best time to plant kale is during the spring or fall.
- Mulch the soil to keep kale cool. This will retain moisture and prevent weeds.
- Succession planting is the best way to ensure kale matures at the proper intervals.
- Do not be afraid of a light frost blanket, as it helps produce flavorful leaves.
- Mulching heavily after the first hard freeze ensures a continuous harvest of healthy leaves through winter.
- Avoid planting kale in one location more than once every three to four years as it increases the risk of pests and diseases.
Pests And Diseases
Kale attracts the following pests and diseases:
- Black rot
- Flea beetles
- Cabbage worms
2. When Is the Right Time to Harvest Kale?
The ideal kale harvesting period is late spring, early summer, and autumn.
Kale is relatively low-maintenance, as the greens are ready to pick at multiple points of its life cycle. For kale seedlings, the leaves are ready for harvest season after 60 to 70 days.
Unlike large kale leaves, baby greens take much less time to mature. It is ready to harvest in as little as 25 to 30 days from the day of planting.
Baby kale leaves are perfect for salads, garden veggie soup, or as a garnish on meat dishes. The larger leaves are great for soups, stews, or cooked mixed greens.
Whether storing your kale or eating it fresh, pick the leaves early in the morning before the heat creeps in. Discard discolored leaves that have fallen off the plant as these are bitter and spoiled.
3. How to Harvest Kale
Harvesting Mature Kale Leaves
What do experts say if you ask them how to harvest kale?
If you’re harvesting mature leaves, pick the outermost leaves that are the size of your palm. Gently grasp the stem at the base of the main stalk. Pull the kale leaf down and away from the center before breaking it off. This method ensures the plant will continue to grow safely through the winter.
While you can pick the entire head at once, we suggest you avoid doing so. Picking only a fistful of outer leaves on a single harvest will ensure you have a long kale harvest season.
Do not remove the terminal bud or central leaves at the top center of the plant. The terminal bud maintains the kale plant’s productivity and further growth.
Harvesting Baby Kale
You can also harvest baby kale leaves earlier in the plant’s life cycle and by following the same process. Do not pluck too many individual leaves as it stunts further growth.
Following this schedule and method of harvesting kale can help you grow and harvest kale repeatedly until ambient temperatures reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can extend the kale harvest period by protecting the plant with row covers or tarps.
Tools Required for Harvesting Kale
Before you learn how to harvest kale, get equipped. We recommend using tools to harvest the lowest leaves if you don’t want to pull out the entire head accidentally. It is a clean and safe method if your soil is soft and newly established.
Here are some products to help you learn how to harvest kale:
4. How to Store Kale After Harvesting?
Survival gardening is all about building a sustainable vegetable garden that generates enough produce to feed your family. And an essential skill that will come in handy for survivalist gardeners is learning how to store their garden vegetables.
Once you know how to harvest kale, you must also learn the two best storage methods to make your greens last a week up to an entire year, depending on your needs.
- Once you’ve picked your fresh leaves, wash them carefully in cool water.
- Remove any debris or dirt on the leaves and look out for bugs.
- Cut off the woody stems.
Kept in a loose plastic bag in the refrigerator, this nutritious vegetable can last for about one week.
The freezing method also follows a similar cleaning process as the refrigeration method, followed by cutting off the woody stems.
The process continues with blanching, cooling, and packing.
This process wilts the leaves, which prevents spoilage and makes them easier to pack. This happens due to the slowing or stopping of enzymatic action on the leaves.
Plus, blanching keeps garden vegetables bright, crispy, and delicious.
- To get started, get a large pot that will hold a steamer basket, colander, or strainer.
- Add enough water to put one or two inches of water under your strainer.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Add your leafy greens into the strainers and cover the pot with a lid.
This steam heating process should be done for 2.5 minutes.
While the blanching process is underway, prepare a large bowl of ice water and a separate bowl to put on top of it. You may also want to keep a pair of tongs handy.
Post blanching, immediately transfer the tender leaves to the separate bowl and let the greens cool down. Use the tongs to move the greens around and keep the temperature even. This process should take two to three minutes.
Do not delay the transfer of blanched greens, and make sure they do not touch the ice water. Keep the water cold by adding more ice cubes.
Drying and Draining
Once the greens have cooled down completely, put them into a salad spinner to drain and dry them.
If you don’t have a salad spinner, you can drain the kale in a colander and dry them off on a paper towel. Roll the towels and squeeze them gently to remove excess water.
Green vegetables are best packed inside freezer bags as you can easily remove air from them. For the best results, you can use a vacuum sealer system.
Once the air is removed from the resealable plastic bags, put them in the freezer. Take them out as required for your future cooking projects.
If you’ve never packaged greens for freezing before, keep these tips in mind:
- Use zip-top freezer bags to preserve freezer space.
- Do not stuff too many greens in one bag.
- Gently flatten the bags before sealing to get quick-thawing kale portions.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Harvest Kale
How long does kale take to mature?
Kale plants planted from seeds take two years to develop into mature kale.
Does kale regrow after harvesting?
Kale is a biennial plant that continuously grows its leaves for multiple future harvests.
What to do if your kale starts flowering?
Kale flowers are edible and a sign that the plant is producing seeds. You can pick off the flowers and continue to harvest the leaves.
How many times can you harvest kale from a single plant?
You can harvest kale as many times as possible in the harvest period of two years. Then, you must replace the plant.
Wrapping Up How to Harvest Kale
We hope this guide has helped expand your knowledge of how to harvest kale from a survival garden. Begin with one or two common varieties of kale and add more later if you get good results.
Done right, you can achieve a continuous bountiful harvest to keep your freezer stocked and feed your family for months and years to come.
Head to our other Survival Food Guides if you’re looking for more guides on survival food and/or harvesting, foraging, storage, and cooking methods.