Winter Kale

A couple of weeks ago I went for a walk through the garden. We had just had an early snow storm which left our farm covered in a heavy, wet layer of snow. All of the trees were white. Their branches weighed down. It looked like a winter wonderland glistening in the sunshine. I like how quiet it gets after a snow. As I continued my walk, I saw the kale was also covered with a layer of white. I reached out and brushed the snow off and discovered that the kale was still crisp and bright green. I picked a bunch to put into the chicken soup I was cooking for super for that night. To my delight, the kale was delicious! ~ Carol

Winter kale after a snow storm

Winter kale after a snow storm

Sweet tasting winter kale

Sweet tasting winter kale

Unfortunately, a small herd of deer found the kale about three days later. Under the cover of darkness, they jumped the fence and ate nearly all of the kale. They thought it was pretty tasty too!

The deer’s late night snack

The deer’s late night snack

Steve adds: For a number of years, we’ve noticed how sweet spinach gets in the winter after experiencing freezing weather. Carol calls it “winter kissed.” Last month we picked some salad turnips from the garden after some frosts. They too were exceptionally sweet, as was this kale.

I was talking with my good friend Dr. Jeb Thurmond about this phenomena recently, and we were speculating as to what caused it. The next day he texted me this:

“The increased sweetness in some vegetables after a frost is called cold sweetness, and there is a solid biological reason for the phenomenon. ‘As plants produce sugars through photosynthesis, most are combined and stored in the plant as starches and other large polymers,’ explained University of Wisconsin horticulture professor Irwin Goldman in the Wisconsin State Journal. ‘But in response to cold temperatures, some plants break down some of their energy stores into free sugars, such as glucose and fructose, and stash them in their cells to guard against frost damage. Sugar dissolved in a cell makes it less susceptible to freezing in the same way that salting roads reduces ice. It’s wonderful for us. Not only does it keep the plants from freezing, but they taste sweeter too.’ ”