How to Harvest Kale

For the gardener in you that’s been waiting to come out, we know you’ve wanted to grow kale but are riddled with questions like how to harvest kale, and we hear you, you are not alone in your quest for getting the best kale possible. You, my friend, are in the right place because we’ll be covering tips and tricks and everything you need to know about how to harvest kale, even if you are a beginner.

Since you probably know how kale is this fantastic powerhouse of nutrients and just how good it is for our bodies and how good it tastes in salads, in a smoothie, braised or sautéed, and even as crunchy kale chips; then you probably start to wonder why not have it available at your own garden. And you are right, and you should because even if you worry about how to harvest kale, know that kale is easy to grow and a low-maintenance kind of plant, and anyone can learn how to do it.

So whether you’ve grown other vegetables or not, if you decide to venture with kale, you’ll probably realize how easy it is and how harvesting kale is a piece of cake. Now that we’ve made it clear, you need to try it yourself; we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to harvest any type of kale like a pro.

Keep in mind to Harvest kale

  1. Make sure your plant is ready to harvest. First, you need to need to make sure that your kale plant is ready to harvest. You’ll know when it’s ready when it’s about 12 inches tall, and the leaves are the size of your hand or bigger. Leaves that are the size of your palm are younger and more tender, whereas the bigger leaves will be older and a bit tougher.
  2. Harvest from the bottom up. It’s also important that you harvest kale from the bottom up. Pruning the top leaves can accidentally stunt the growth of your kale plant. Feel free to cut off any yellowing leaves to help your plant really focus its energy on growing the other healthy leaves.

Tools to Harvest kale

The tools that you will need include

  • Pruning shears or a pruning knife
  • A large bowl or bucket.

Tips to How to Harvest Kale

  • It’s best to start with the oldest and lowest leaves.
  • Pick them near the base of the plant, one by one.
  • Keep the central and new leaves.
  • Do this every week or as needed.

When to Harvest Kale

Kale can mature in about 30–40 days if transplanted; otherwise, you need 55–65 days. When the leaves grow as big as your hands, it’s time for harvest.

How to Harvest Kale at a Glance

Step 1: Grasp a kale leaf and cut it at the base of the stem with a clean cut using your pruning shears.

Step 2: Put cut leaves in bucket.

Step 3: Wash freshly cut leaves.

Step 4: Cook and enjoy kale.

How to harvest kale without killing it

To harvest kale without killing your beloved plant, there are a few signs the plant itself will let you know the right time.

The right time to harvest. It is a good idea to keep in mind the variety of kale you’re growing since some types grow more quickly than others. Always check your seed packet for your kale’s expected days to maturity.
There are also two distinct harvest stages: baby kale and mature kale.

Harvest of baby kale

You can start harvesting baby leaves from most kale varieties about a month after planting. Wait until your plants have multiple sets of leaves that have grown to about 2-3 inches long.

Start keeping an eye on your plants for about 3-4 weeks because kale can quickly grow past the baby stage. Also, be aware that if you want to harvest many baby kale, your plants will take more time to produce full-size leaves.

Harvest of mature kale

The general rule is to harvest your kale when they are the size of your hands; these are mature leaves.
Most kale plants will reach maturity 55-60 days after planting. If you planted kale seeds directly in your garden, it would take closer to 3 months for leaves to become full-sized.

To harvest baby kale and mature kale

  • Kale is an easy plant to harvest from. As long as you don’t cut the central bud, you can easily cut all the individual leaves you need.
  • The method for harvesting is the same for both baby and mature leaves. You always want to harvest outer leaves first and leave the inner ones to continue to grow.
  • Cut off leaves where the leaf stem meets the main stem of the plant. You can also snap leaves off at the stem.
  • To know exactly where to run your scissors or knife, everyone is different, but generally, you want to leave a few inches of the branch sticking out, and it will grow back rather quickly.

Picking kale after a frost

Another great thing about kale is that its taste only gets better after a frost, reason why you want to wait until after a frost to harvest.
A frost will increase the amount of sugar in a kale plant’s leaves. Once you harvest those leaves for eating, the overall flavor is much sweeter.

Harvesting after a frost is all about getting your timing right. You’ll have to transplant your seedlings into your garden about six weeks before the first frost, which is the time they take to grow.

Picking kale in the heat

Kale doesn’t do well with the heat. The leaves will only get bitter when temperatures are high. This tells you that if you plant kale in hot weather around spring, by mid-summer, it’s going to be barely eatable.

So, in order to harvest kale during the summer and making sure it will come back again once the weather cools down, you will need to remove nearly every leave, instead of just a few leveaves you need to cut about 90% of them. The leaves that you can leave untouched should be the ones on top.

Harvesting kale FAQ

Where exactly do you cut it?

Whenever you harvest, leave about ⅓ of the leaves intact so that your kale plants can regenerate. Otherwise, you can pick as many leaves as needed.

How do you know which leaves to cut when they all look good?

If all your kale is looking pretty and healthy, you may want to go after the leaves that are the biggest; this way; you’ll avoid stepping on them if they are on your walking path.

How long do kale plants live?

Kale is biennial, which means it has a two-year life-cycle, but it is frequently grown annually. Some perennial kale varieties can live for up to seven years.