Kale is one of the tastiest and most nutrient-dense leafy vegetables you can add to your salads, wraps, or other recipes.
They are easy to grow, but knowing when to pick them makes a big difference in their flavor and texture.
Generally, Kale should be harvested between 30 and 60 days after sowing by cutting the entire plant or harvesting individual leaves.
However, you will have to adjust your approach based on whether you’re growing baby Kale or trying to have more mature leaves.
This is a lot to take in, but thankfully, in this short guide, we’ll share the best methods and times to pick Kale at different stages of its development.
What Is The Difference Between Mature Kale and Baby Kale?
Before we start, we must point out that both mature and baby Kale refer to different stages of plant development and not distinct varieties.
On the one hand, mature Kale is the term for regular, full-size Kale, whereas baby Kale is a form of Kale with much smaller, lighter leaves, similar to microgreens.
As you can guess, baby Kale is more tender and has a milder taste than mature kale leaves, making them ideal for salads, wraps, and similar uses.
When Is Baby Kale Ready To Harvest?
Typically, baby Kale should be ready to harvest around 25 and 30 days after planting. At this time, they should be about 4 inches tall and growing relatively close together.
As you can tell, this is a relatively short amount of time. At this point, the young plants resemble large microgreens and are harvested similarly.
So, if you want to use your baby Kale for some particular meals, you will want to plan quite far ahead.
How Do You Harvest Baby Kale?
While you can use your fingernails to harvest baby kale, we recommend using a sharp tool such as a pair of small scissors or micro-tip pruning shears instead.
If you use the latter, grab a bunch of plants in your hand, and cut the leaves off about two inches from the ground, leaving the kale plant to regrow for future use.
You should try to cut the stems just above the Kale’s “growth point” to encourage your plant to regrow after harvesting your handful of leaves.
The growth point refers to the central part of the plant, where new leaves grow, and the stems come together.
By doing this, the smaller leaves will be left intact and can continue growing to full size for later use.
When Is Mature Kale Ready To Harvest?
Mature Kale will typically be ready to harvest around 60 days after the plant’s seeds were first planted.
This is around two months, double the time it takes for Baby Kale to be ready for harvest.
After 60 days, you can expect to enjoy 10 or more leaves from your mature kale plant.
How Do You Harvest Mature Kale?
When harvesting mature Kale leaves, you should leave a minimum of five central ones to allow the plant to continue growing and making new leaves.
- To harvest mature Kale leaves, you’ll need to go to the bottom of the central stalk and find a mature outer leaf.
- Grip it carefully, then pull it down and outwards until it breaks off and comes free. Or use a sharp tool if your plant is tender or your soil is soft.
The reason for picking outer leaves is because the inner ones are where the new growths come out. If you harvest there, it’ll affect the plant and its ability to grow more in the future.
Keeping Your Kale In Healthy Condition
Kale grows quickly in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil with sufficient sunlight and moisture. Unfortunately, they attract aphids and other pests like a magnet.
For a healthy kale plant, remove old and damaged leaves, throw them in the compost or use them to make liquid fertilizers. This customized liquid fertilizer will contain all the nutrients needed by the Kale plant in the right proportions.
You must keep a good eye on your Kale, baby, or mature, and check that it’s consistently in good health. You want complete and intact leaves that are green.
Kale is tasty and full of vitamins (A, C, K) and antioxidants, making it one of the most well-rounded greens.
Growing your own gives you a constant stream to pick from when you want, but you must look after and harvest them properly.
We hope our little guide has helped you determine the best time and method to use to harvest your tasty Kale. Enjoy!
North Carolina State Extension. Kale – Grow It, Eat It. ces.ncsu.edu. Accessed November 2022
Renee’s Garden Seeds. Cutting Baby Kale. [Video] Youtube. Uploaded May 5, 2014