Kale (Brassica oleracea var. sabellica) is a popular winter vegetable, but it tends to wrinkle quickly after harvest. Here you can find out the most important things about the harvest, how it can be kept for longer and how it can be stored optimally.
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In order to be able to store the cruciferous plant for a longer period of time without losing aroma and spoiling, a few details must be observed during harvest.
Best harvest time
Depending on the weather, the brown cabbage can be harvested from mid or late November. However, for the start of harvest time, it should have been frozen beforehand in order to develop a perfect aroma. The frost creates a mild, sweet taste. Kale can be harvested until about February.
Correct harvesting technique
In order to extend the kale season in the vegetable patch and prevent rot, you should proceed as follows when harvesting:
- only harvest individual leaves so that the cabbage grows
- ideal: harvest from the outer leaves inwards (always leave the heart and inner leaves standing)
- Harvest on frost-free days to reduce the risk of rot
- Due to the risk of rotting, cabbage should never be moved in frosty weather
- don’t forget to wait for frost first if the leaves are young
extend shelf life
Freshly harvested kale often only lasts a few hours to a day at room temperature. After that, it becomes wrinkled, drastically loses flavor and can become bitter. With the following methods, the shelf life of the cabbage can be significantly extended.
In the refrigerator
The fresh cabbage can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week – provided it is stored in the vegetable compartment. There are usually ideal temperatures plus a required minimum humidity. It stays fresh for up to 14 days when exposed to continuously higher humidity. This can be achieved in two different ways:
- Wrap the cabbage in a damp cloth
- Allow to cool and then wrap in plastic wrap (alternative: pack in freezer bags)
- in both cases do not store together with tomatoes and apples (reduces shelf life immensely)
In the freezer
The longest shelf life for kale is to freeze it. Storage in the freezer is possible for 10 to 12 months. Thats how it works:
- Thoroughly clean cabbage leaves and remove all soil
- if there is a stalk, remove it
- Boil salted water and blanch the cabbage in it for two to three minutes
- then quench in ice or cold water
- Pat dry with kitchen paper and cut into small pieces
- Fill desired portion sizes into freezer boxes or bags and wear well
- put in the freezer
A similar shelf life of up to ten months is possible by preserving kale. This requires preserving jars to be sealed airtight, a preserving pot and the following procedure:
- Blanch in boiling salted water for two to three minutes
- Chop the leaves and sprinkle with a few drops of lemon and salt water (ten grams of salt per liter of water).
- fill into well-cleaned mason jars (up to a maximum of three centimeters below the rim of the jar)
- Place the preserving jars in the preserving pot, fill with water and cook at 100 degrees Celsius for between 70 and 90 minutes
- store in dark place
Baking is an ideal way to make healthy vegetable chips that, properly packaged, have a shelf life of up to four weeks. That’s how it’s done:
- Wash and dry kale leaves
- remove coarse stems and leaf veins
- chop into bite-sized pieces
- Marinate with olive oil, salt and chili powder as required and to taste
- Spread uncovered and uncovered on baking sheet
- Bake at 100 degrees between 30 and 50 minutes (depending on leaf thickness and desired crispiness)
- Fill in a sealable container and store at room temperature
As an alternative to baking, a dehydrator can also be used for drying and thus a longer shelf life of up to four weeks. Please note the following:
- Clean leaves and cut into bite-sized pieces
- Dehydrator temperature: 40 degrees Celsius
- Drying time: around twelve hours
- then season if necessary
- Pour into a sealable container and keep in the dark at room temperature
frequently asked Questions
Kale is a bitter vegetable. By harvesting, the enzyme decomposition begins, which starts the formation of bitter substances. Blanching prevents this process and consequently no bitter substances are produced. In addition, any germs are killed. All this together leads to a longer shelf life. Unlike boiling, the short blanching also preserves most of the vitamins and nutrients.
Theoretically yes. However, kale loses water as it thaws and becomes more susceptible to bacteria and other germs. If you freeze them again, they can be retained. That’s why you should freeze portions from the start to avoid the risk of thawed leftovers.