Should You Let Your Kale Flower?

Kale is a terrific gardening plant. Adding kale to any dish gives a mild addition to its taste but vast additions in nutrients. If your kale has started to flower, it doesn’t mean your growing season is over. 

You should let your kale flower, as letting the kale flower grow means you can harvest the buds and eat them. Flowering signifies that the plant likely won’t be growing any more kale for the season. So, your kale will flower whether you like it or not, and letting it grow gives added benefits.

While you may be tempted to pull your flowering kale plants, consider the following before going through with it. Below, I’ll discuss why your kale is flowering, the pros and cons of letting it flower, and some information on when to harvest. Additionally, I’ll give you some tips and tricks for harvesting the kale flower florets. 

What Happens if You Let Your Kale Flower

You have little control over when kale flowers. Kale will typically begin to flower once the season is coming to an end and your kale plants get hotter. Typically, you can do nothing when kale begins to flower except for allowing its natural life cycle to complete its course. Should you let your kale flower? Unfortunately, the choice isn’t yours.

However, whether you pull your kale flowers or not is a completely different discussion. Some might pull their kale plant as soon as it begins to flower, while others will wait for it to bloom or even take the non-blooming buds and eat them. 

Why Kale Flowers

Kale flowers when it gets hot. Your kale has preferences for growth, and heat waves don’t fit into the kale checklist. Kale plants prefer:

  • Season. Kale is a cool weather plant, meaning it’s best grown and harvested in Spring and Fall. The heat of the Summer and the cool of the Winter may make it flower quicker. 
  • Sunlight. Kale likes to have full sun.
  • Temperature. You should plant your kale when it’s between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18.33 – 23.89 degrees Celsius). 
  • Watering. Kale likes to have between 1 and 1.5 inches (2.54 – 3.81 cm) of water. 
  • pH. Your soil should have a pH of 6.0 and 7.0 for the ideal kale growth.

So, when the temperature begins to get too hot or too cold, your kale will likely begin to flower. If your kale is still not picked and begins to flower, your kale may taste more bitter or be tougher to chew than you’re used to. This is why it’s important to get to your kale before it begins to flower. However, you’re not totally at a loss if you’re too late. The kale buds are sweet and edible, even if they’ve begun blooming because of the cold.

Pros of Letting Your Kale Flower

There are some pros to letting your kales flower and not messing with them further. While some gardeners may not want their kale plant after it’s finished producing kale, there are some things to consider before pulling it up.

The Kale Flowers Are Pretty

First and foremost, the kale flowers are pretty. They come out yellow, and the blooms and buds will be white. Therefore, your beloved kale plant will bloom beautiful flowers that add some pops of color to the area. What’s the harm in leaving it if it adds a little aesthetic brilliance to your garden?

The Kale Buds Are Edible 

Additionally, as mentioned above, the florets of the kale buds are edible. Florets are sweet to eat if they’ve been frosted over by the cold and even still have an interesting flavor if they’ve been brought on by warmth. 

Backyard gardeners and homesteaders are pros at using all plant parts to eat, making sure there is no waste from your hard work. Kale flowers are one of those things that can be added to your edibles list.

The Kale Will Die Out on It’s Own

If you like to leave your crops at the end of the season, you can ignore the flowering kale. You can wait a little while before pulling crops, especially because kale will continue to flower throughout the summer and die out on its own. So, why not let the kale plant go through it’s natural life cycle?

There Could Be More Kale To Harvest

Lastly, you might want to wait on pulling your kale because it’s possible your plant isn’t done yet. If you love kale and have worked hard to cultivate your kale plant, there’s no harm in waiting a little longer to see if anything is harvestable. 

You may be surprised with more kale even after the kale flower buds bloom.  

Cons of Letting Your Kale Flower

Above, I mentioned there’s “no harm” in letting your kale flower. There’s no harm besides the obvious harms that any plant would succumb to when left to grow. You might find your kale overgrows, taking over parts of your garden you didn’t plant it in. 

The kale may pollinate and show up across the yard. The flowers and buds may attract bugs or pests, making the rest of your plants vulnerable.

Kale can still grow in cool weather, working as a fall crop. However, you may not want to get out to the garden to pull it out once winter starts. If you’ve planted it in the spring and it’s already flowered, you’d be better off pulling it now while it’s warm out! 

Additionally, waiting to pull your kale flowers (if you like a bare garden at the end of the season) means you may be pulling in the winter. 

Stopping Kale From Flowering

If you want your kale to stop flowering, you have to be ready to sacrifice the entire plant. As I said above, there’s not much you can do to keep your kale from flowering in the same way you can’t keep your garden from blooming (or your weeds from popping up!). 

Flowering is a natural part of kale’s life cycle. You may need to pull it early if the flowers aren’t ideal for you or your garden.

You can wait until your kale produces the crop you want and then pull it to avoid flowering altogether. This might take some guessing–it’s hard to know when a kale plant is done producing until it flowers. However, if you’re happy with your crop, you could pull it. Wait until you get your last crop, and then take the kale plant out before it flowers. 

When To Harvest Kale

You should be harvesting your kale around sixty days after planting it. Kale grows big, meaning it’ll be about a foot tall when it’s time to pull. Usually, there will be no flowers or buds when you’re ready to pull. Leaves should be palm sizes or bigger. Think about the kale plants you see in the grocery store and pull your kale when it looks that size. 

When it comes to kale, pulling early means having a more tender crop. Depending on what you want the kale for, this may be ideal. Otherwise, waiting until it’s big enough makes it tougher, but it’ll still taste the same. Some people swear by massaging their kale to make it more tender, so you don’t have to pull it early if you like it bigger but don’t want it tough. Just give it a massage! 

Check out this YouTube video on giving a kale plant a massage:

Additionally, ice baths can also work wonders for your fresh produce. 

Is Kale Flower Edible?

Flowers in your veggie plants are hit or miss regarding eatability. However, we’ve already covered in this article where kale flowers stand.

Kale flowers are edible when florets and the buds tend to be sweet. The flowering kale won’t taste like the kale you’re used to harvesting, but many gardeners enjoy it as a bonus at the end of the season. Regardless, it’s safe to eat. 

Remember, though; that most people eat the florets or the flower buds, not the flowers! There are no adverse consequences if you eat the kale flowers, but those who eat them do so before they turn into flowers. The bud will shoot straight through the middle of where your kale used to grow, and you’ll want to grab onto them before they bloom.

Many people are unaware that kale florets can be added to salads, sauteed, or eaten fresh off of the plant. It extends the life of your kale crop, not by giving you more kale, but by giving you something else to enjoy when there’s no more kale to enjoy! 

How To Prepare Kale Florets

The florets are what most people tend to eat. Florets are the little buds that may remind you of cauliflower or broccoli. You’ll need to harvest them before they’re completely flowered to prepare kale flowers. One of the most popular ways to eat kale florets is by tossing them in lemon, white wine, and butter. However, many enjoy them with red pepper flakes.

Regardless, wash them off as you would any plant from your garden before you eat them. 

Final Thoughts

Taking down your kale plants at the end of the season is bittersweet. It means another successful season has come to an end and that you’ll have to start your winter crops soon. However, if you want to leave them up for a while, the consequences are few. The benefits of letting your kale flower generally outweigh the challenges.

Kale flowers are edible, and many gardeners enjoy them. Give it a try this season to determine whether you’ll take your kale out at the end of its life cycle or if you’ll wait anxiously for those sweet florets. 

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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