Church Brothers Farms Lifts the Veil on Kale
- by Jessica Donnel
SALINAS, CA - How well do you know your kales? Not every type of kale is created equal, and Church Brothers Farms would like to demystify this on-trend, and still growing in-demand vegetable!
The varieties that have been infusing salad menus with new options over the last few years are baby kales.
Church Brothers Farms grows its own seed varieties, that can take up to one year to produce. From seed to harvest, baby kales take 22-40 days to grow, based on the time of year and desired leaf size.
Harvesting baby kale uses minimal labor with a self-propelled tender leaf crop harvest machine. An adjustable bandsaw blade cuts the leaves to a set position using a “lawn mower” action. Cut to cool management is key for baby kale. Once harvested, the baby kale is taken to Church Brothers Farms’ True Leaf Farms processing plant to be cooled down and triple washed.
Mature, curly kale is grown and harvested entirely different—taking 85 to 120 days to grow its first crop. These taller kale plants range from 2-4 feet tall, and are hand-harvested anywhere from 3 to 7 times depending on the time of year. After the plant leaves are harvested, kale generally takes 3-4 weeks for new leaves to regrow on the kale plant stalk.
In the last two years, these growers have been trialing mechanically harvesting this same crop that is traditionally hand harvested. The goal is to increase efficiency and match increasing demand for mature, curly kale.