How to Grow Kale

Try the ‘Red Russian’ variety for salads and ‘Lacinato’ if you prefer to eat it cooked.

| February 2018

  • Lacinato’ Kale
    Lacinato’ Kale resembles a small palm tree as it grows.
    Photos by Emily Murphy/Josh Murphy
  • kale and brassica relatives Cabbage white butterflies
    Cabbage white butterflies choose kale and brassica relatives as hosts. If you see large holes or missing leaves, it's most likely butterfly larvae.
    Photo by Emily Murphy/Josh Murphy
  • “Grow What You Love” by Emily Murphy
    “Grow What You Love” by Emily Murphy encourages gardeners to exactly that: Choose plants you enjoy using in your everyday life.
    Courtesy of Firefly Books

  • Lacinato’ Kale
  • kale and brassica relatives Cabbage white butterflies
  • “Grow What You Love” by Emily Murphy

Grow What You Love: 12 Food Plant Families To Change Your Life by Emily Murphy, not only teaches readers to grow and harvest gardens but to apply this philosophy to life as well. Murphy helps readers to plan out gardens to best suite their space and needs. She shares tips and techniques for growing a successful garden. The following excerpt is from The Plant Directory, “Winter Greens.”

My personal rule is to try growing a few new varieties each season. Even so, I keep coming back to ‘Red Russian’ and ‘Lacinato’ kale (also known as dino or Tuscan kale). I love ‘Red Russian’ for its color, frilled edges and texture (it makes a terrific salad of any kind). ‘Lacinato’ is particularly wonderful when cooked. Its puckered leaves have a mesmerizing way of capturing droplets of water. As it matures, it grows into what looks like small palm trees — like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Kale Varieties
Brassica oleracea
Brassica napus



Biennial grown as an annual. Prefers rich, well-draining soil. Grow from seed or starts. Sow seeds in midsummer to fall and again in winter for a spring harvest, planting 1/2 inch deep. Spacing depends on variety and harvesting. Grows well in containers but requires more planting depth than mizuna and arugula.

I find birds enjoy kale sprouts as much as I do. When direct-sowing in the garden, consider covering seedlings with netting to protect them until they’re big enough to fend for themselves. Siberian kale doesn’t transplant well and is best sown in place, but many other varieties can be started indoors and transplanted out or purchased as nursery starts.

Like so many winter vegetables, kale becomes sweeter as temperatures drop. It’s hardy, tolerating temperatures down to 20 degrees F (-7 degrees C), and it’s also likely to bolt and become infested with aphids as temperatures rise in summer. My kale comes out around May or June and finds its way back into the garden in September and October.


Harvest and eat kale at any point, removing outer leaves where the leaf stem meets the main stem. It’s tasty as a microgreen and, if left to mature, can provide weeks, even months, of harvesting.


Trim stems and eat kale raw in salads, as a coleslaw or in a tabouleh with quinoa. Try adding it to stir-fries or pairing it with white beans and garlic topped with chèvre on pasta. Add it to soups, enchiladas, grain dishes or pesto. It holds its own in an incredible range of dishes, making it all the more worthwhile to grow your own.

Emily’s Note

Kale and its brassica rela­tives are host plants for cabbage white butterflies. If you start seeing large holes or entire leaves missing, it’s probably the butterfly larvae (aka cabbage worms). They’re small, bright green and smooth. Pick them off in the mornings and eve­nings, or spray plants with OMRI-certified organic Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring soil-borne bacteria).

Copyright@ 2018 Firefly Books Ltd.

Text Copyright @ 2018 Emily Murphy

Photographs copyright @ West Cliff Creative



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