How to Ensure Your Kale Provides Buds Month after Month

Be bud wiser with your kale and collect fresh buds and leaves that make for incredibly fresh and tasty edibles

Credit: Carol Pope

Once you let your kale bloom, it will stop budding

By keeping a close eye on your kale, you can make certain it will continue to supply fresh buds for months at a time

As a gardener who aspires to eat (a lot) from the garden every day but who doesn’t want to work too terribly hard at it, I’m always eager for the abundant spring season of kale buds.

Sometimes it just seems too good to be true. After a long and hard winter of toughing it out in the chilly garden – with me snapping off leaves right and left through sleet and snow – my almost bare-picked patch of kale supercharges into spring growth, with fresh tender leaves from the many different kale varieties bursting out all over their once-naked stems so prolifically that I can hardly pick them fast enough.

Then, if that weren’t enough to ask, each plant copiously forms a multitude of little buds (like broccolini heads). Top this off with the fact that all of this kale has endured a few frosts through winter, so that every bud and bit I snap off is sweet and succulent due to the surge of “sugar” each plant generates as a preventative from freezing to death.

There’s just one catch though.

As Sharon Hanna, author of The Book of Kale: The Easy-to-Grow Superfood, reports to me, many kale growers have noted to her that they can find no buds to pick, but instead their kale plants have simply gone to flower by April and are ready to be replaced.

Where Did All of the Kale Buds Go?

But here’s the secret: keep your eye on your kale.

This is a perfect excuse to drop your deskwork to head out for a stroll in the garden, bowl and scissors (or paring knife) in hand every few days. Once your kale blooms, the buds will stop forming, so you need to keep picking the buds to hold the plants back from going to flower and seed.

From my three raised beds of kale, I am able to pick a hundred or more buds every two days, along with succulent new leaves. Once the plants are well picked, they simply bud like mad again.

With my giant salad bowl overflowing with fresh organic buds and leaves, I head in to chop them into salads, toss them into stir-fries or whip up Spring Kale Buds with Pancetta & Lemon, one of the 80 recipes in Sharon’s book. Because the growth is so fresh and new, it barely needs rinsing – often we just eat it right off the plants.

With my every-two-days routine, I can keep our household supplied with kale buds for a good three months or more, until my spring-planted new kale additions that are standing by in small pots have matured enough to take their place.

Oh, and, if you can, leave in a couple of your old kale plants to flower and seed – I always let a few bloom right from April through the spring, because bees flock like crazy to the yellow flowers.

And, as noted here, your kale, particularly if it is ‘Red Russian’, will self-seed like mad and give you some extra starts for planting and passing to family and friends . . . who may also wish to partake in the season of plenty that a kale crop can bring.