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Kitchen Gardening

All Hail Kale for 2017

The National Garden Bureau has spoken and named 2017 the Year of the Brassica.

It's the Year of the Brassica and time to celebrate cole crops in our gardens. All hail kale!
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

Every year the National Garden Bureau (NGB) selects some stellar crops for gardeners to plant and enjoy in their vegetable gardens. Brassica vegetables take the top spot for 2017.

Brassica veggies are members of a big family that includes bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, rutabagas and turnips. You can also toss radishes into the mix.

These cole crops are great additions to the early spring garden because they can all easily shake off a little frost and even a light covering of snow.

They’re also loaded with vitamin C and, according to the NGB, Brassica vegetables also contain soluble fiber and “healthy doses of glucosinolates, a compound that helps reduce the risk of various cancers of the digestive tract. In addition, red Brassicas provide mega-doses of Anthocyanin (a powerful anti-oxidant).”

You may already have your favorite Brassica varieties, but here are five new ways to celebrate cole crops this season:

Prizm Hybrid kale is a 2016 All-America Selections (AAS) national winner and a super-duper super food. A good fit for small gardens, this kale has curly, deep green leaves that are ready to enjoy in 50-60 days. It’s tolerance for cold temperatures is sure to make it an early season favorite in your garden.

Konan Hybrid kohlrabi is another AAS winner. A prime feature of this cultivar is that it stays tender and flavorful, even when bulbs grow large. It’s a winner because gardeners can enjoy it fresh or use in cooking.

Instead of traditional white cauliflower varieties, look for Purple of Sicily cauliflower or another purple type. These showy vegetables make a statement in the garden and in the kitchen, too. The color signals these crops are loaded with antioxidants.

Primero Red cabbage is an alternative to typical green cabbages, plus it matures a bit earlier, too (72 days). The compact heads are sweet and tender and can be harvested when they’re between 2-4 pounds.

A couple of collards to look for include Tiger hybrid and the heirloom Georgia. If you’ve never planted collards, this is the year to start because these plants are easy to grow and mature quickly, even in cool weather. If you plant transplants, expect a quick harvest in only 4-6 weeks.

Because Brassica vegetables have been around since ancient times, there are hundreds of different ones to choose and use. Please share your favorites with us!

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