Unexpected Edibles - Kale Florets
March 01, 2013 at 3:29 PM
All good things eventually come to an end. Kale, workhorse of the garden greens, provides a steady supply of nutrient-dense leaves for as long as nine months before slowly sending up flowering shoots. Unlike many salad greens, kale leaves are still edible (some say even sweeter) after flowering, though the plant significantly slows its production of leafy growth at this point, focusing instead on producing blooms and seeds. While flowering signals that it’s time to put in fresh kale starts, it also offers savvy home gardeners the opportunity to cook with one of the garden’s ephemeral delicacies.
As kale plants initiate their flowering phase, the central stalk begins to elongate with a cluster of tiny green buds at its tip. Like a small, skinny broccoli head, these shoots, when left to their own devices, will eventually stretch about a foot tall, spreading the green buds along their stems as they grow and opening them to reveal pale yellow flowers.
When cut soon after emergence, however, the closed buds and stalk can be harvested as kale florets (or kale raab). The stem portion must be harvested while still tender, so wiggle it slightly from the flower buds downward and snap it off at the point where you start to feel it become stiff. Surprisingly sweet, their tender texture and mild kale-like flavor is delicious eaten raw or lightly cooked. Sauté and toss with pasta, add them to a quiche, or, for a uniquely delicious treat, lightly oil and salt them to top a pizza.