I never used to eat kale, never expected I would. The whole kale craze came and went (Yeah, I think foodies have moved on to things like poke bowls, ancient grains and gold-plated chicken wings), and still I didn’t bite. I have always been a salad greens type of person: leaf lettuce, mesculn, a little bit of fresh spinach — that sort of thing — never kale. But look at me now. I not only eat kale, I even grow the stuff!

About a year ago a neighbor gave me a bag of kale leaves that she had grown. Being a waste-not, want-not type of person, I used it. I sliced some of it up into thin strips and put it in a soup. It was fine. Got a little braver and cut some of it up small and added it to a salad (so far, so good) and put some of it in a vegetable pot pie … well, you get the idea. Pretty soon I was hooked. This stuff was not bad. In fact, it was pretty good.

Kale is not bitter nor cabbage-y, as I expected it to be. In fact, it basically disappeared into everything I put it in. I know about its nutrient benefits: Kale is a great source of dietary fiber, contains protein, thiamine, riboflavin, folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and is a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. This stuff is a little nutritional powerhouse in a green leaf. It was only a matter of time before I started growing kale.

Then, lo and behold, I discovered something new about kale — that there is a special variety discovered by Camden resident and gardener Beedy Parker. And after speaking with her, I also discovered something else. She was just as reluctant a kale-convert as I had been.

“I’d never planted kale, but it just kept coming back,” Parker said of when her Camden kale insinuated itself into her vegetable garden some three decades ago. Her kale would die back in the winter, only to sprout out the following spring. She also noted that volunteer seedlings were common with her variety. “I didn’t know anything about kale back then, but I gradually realized it was good stuff. All I can figure is that it must have seeded itself.”

Over time this creative organic gardener realized some of her relentless kale plants actually survived the winter. She recognized that she had something unusual with that plucky kale variety. And soon she started sharing seeds with other gardeners near and far. Not only did it turn out to be fairly winter-hardy, but Parker believes her open-pollinated kale is actually sweeter and not as tough as some kale varieties. “I’ve got to say that my kale has trouble, as do most plants, with our new 'whiplash' winter weather: serious cold alternating with serious thaws,” she said.

So far, I’ve had great success growing this and other kale varieties, both in the ground and in containers. They stand up to some pretty serious cold weather, and heat too, providing plenty of nutritious additions to meals. Although only Beedy's Camden kale can claim such a cold-hardiness that it can often survive winter here. And kale is one of those things I can grow throughout the seasons, right through the summer when the lettuce and spinach have all capitulated to the heat.

Growing kale is similar to cultivation of leaf lettuce or spinach. Plant where there is plenty of full sun and a rich soil that has been amended with compost. Harvest is easy; pick a leaf or two to add to a salad or pick several, leaving the parent stalk growing to produce more leaves. Seeds for Beedy's Camden kale are available from FEDCO Seeds, and it takes about two months from germination to harvest. Plus, this kale lasts long into the fall. So, what are you waiting for? There is still time to put in a row of Beedy's Camden kale.