Harvesting and cooking kale and Swiss chard

Asked August 25, 2013, 1:55 PM EDT

When and how should kale and Swiss chard be harvested and prepared for best flavor and nutrition? In northern DE can either be a year around plant?

New Castle County Delaware

4 Responses

Kale and Swiss Chard are Cool season crops, so Late spring, fall, winter are the best growing seasons, October - April. Kale gets sweeter after a frost in the fall and may continue growing through the winter. Selection: Leaves should look crisp, not wilted. They should be deeply colored- green, blue, purple or red depending of the variety – not yellowed. Avoid tough or leathery leaves with brown spots. Kale and Swiss Chard should not be washed before storing. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days. If you want to keep the greens longer, you can easily freeze them: After washing, remove the stems, and chop the leaves into 2 inch strips. Blanch in boiling water for 2-4 minutes, chill in ice water, drain, and store in freezer bags. Preparation: Wash kale in a deep bowl of cold water stirring to remove any dirt. Change the water, and repeat the process until the water looks clear. Tender young leaves may be used whole, but older leaves should be chopped in small pieces after the stems are removed. Serving: Tender leaves may be used fresh in salads or sandwiches. More mature larger leaves should be used without stems and cut into small pieces to steam, sauté, or add to sauces or soups. Kale can be substituted for spinach in most recipes and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K and manganese, and a good source of calcium, potassium, iron, and copper. It also has a high concentration of phytonutrients. http://extension.udel.edu/fcs/

So should you rip out the spring crop sometime in June? And if so, when is best to replant for a fall/early winter crop? Is it too late to plant now?

Kale can be planted for fall harvest from mid-July through late August. Plantings for fall harvest may overwinter, especially if protected. Spring planted kale usually bolts in the summer, so spring plantings should be removed in the summer.

It is too late to plant Swiss chard for this fall. Spring planted Swiss chard will survive the summer and can be kept for fall production. It will become more vigorous as the weather cools off.