On a mild August afternoon, I spent two hours scooting around the kale patch here at Joyfield Farm, turning over leaves. The lacy kale told the truth: cabbage moth worms were enjoying this long row of kale.
I’ve been traveling this summer, and the worms have eaten more kale than I have.
Kale is a tough plant, and these leaves are both hearty and full of holes. Picking yellow-green worms and black-green-white striped worms off the leaf bottoms didn’t cultivate my appetite for kale salad.
But I remember that organic gardening adage, “If the bugs won’t eat it, why would you?”
When checking kale for pests, I turn over at least three leaves per plant. If I don’t find worms or eggs, I move on to the next plant. If I find pests, I tell myself to check all the leaves. But it gets tiresome.
As my garden time wore on, my thoughts turned theological: Why not happily share this kale with the creepy crawlers? “And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:24, English Standard Version–other versions say “crawling things.”)
Worms have been at work in this world far longer than humans. Maybe I should share!
But … the cabbage worms can eat the wild mustard and other brassica that I’m not cultivating. I feel a right to this row of kale.
But … I haven’t been home to weed it, tend it, or eat it. Maybe I should thank the cabbage worms for appreciating these tough green leaves.
And then I carry another bucket-full of weeds and worms to the chickens. Circle of life.
If your kale (or other greens) are ready for harvest, try this pesto-style dip or sauce. You can use your greens fresh. But if the worms have been feasting on them, or they’re getting tough in their old age, try steaming them first. (You can also make this dip with frozen greens.) Put this on pasta, bread, crackers, carrot sticks or turn into soup with broth.
GARLICKY GREENS DIP/SAUCE
- 2 cups torn or chopped kale, spinach or other greens (use whatever you have)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or walnuts
- 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
If you want to cook the greens, you can quickly steam greens in a microwave, skillet or pot of boiling water. Try to squeeze out the water after they’ve cooled so you don’t get a runny dip.
Add greens to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until pureed.
Add garlic, nuts, and vinegar. Pulse to puree, slowly adding in the olive oil.
Scrape down the bowl, add salt and pepper, and pulse to blend.
- Include nutritional yeast for vegan umami and B-12.
- Add parmesan or cheese of your choice.
- Go with rice vinegar or lemon juice instead of balsamic to match your tastes and what you’re serving the dip/sauce with.
I’ve been eating kale for decades, growing up with frugal parents who garden organically in northern Indiana, in a small, intentional, Christian community. I genuinely love kale – even the tough spines. But when preparing kale to share with others, I remove the spines for the chickens, and massage the leaves with olive oil if we’ll be eating it fresh. It’s amazing how such a tough, bitter green can sweeten and soften with a massage!
Joyfield Farm is on seven acres with four households sharing resources near North Manchester, IN. My husband Phillip and I moved to the farm in 2021, to become the “young” generation with the elders who raised me. Come visit and stay when you’re in the area!