What Is Kale?
What is kale? Seems as if a lot of people don't know!
Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) is a group of vegetable plants in the cabbage family used mostly as cooked greens, although young kale leaves are tasty in salad.
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Other names for kale are ornamental cabbage and borecole. Although kale is related to broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, it never forms a head. If your "kale" has a head, you don't have a kale -- you've got a cabbage. :)
All types of kale are edible, even the ones labeled as "ornamental"!
What is kale? Handy facts about kale
- Plant type: Most are hardy biennials, usually planted as an annual -- one cultivar is a perennial
- Plant size: Depends on cultivar, most are 1-2 feet (50 cm) on each side when mature.
The perennial cultivar known as Jersey kale, Walking Stick kale, or Tree Collards can grow up to ten feet (3 meters) tall!
- Easiest way to plant: Either buy the plants (which is what I prefer because I'm impatient) or start from seed.
- Propagate by: Saving seed in biennials. Can root branches of perennial kale.
- Edible parts: Leaves, stems, shoots, flowers (which on some cultivars are rare)
- Flower type: small (less than 1 inch/2 cm wide), trumpet shaped. Look very similar to broccoli blossoms.
- Blooms: In late spring to mid-summer of its second year (biennials)
- Leaf color(s): Varies dramatically depending on cultivar,
anywhere from blue-green to bright green to pink to purple to white.
Many varigated cultivars are available.
- Leaf type: Varies widely by cultivar, can be smooth, crinkled, oak-leaf shaped, oval, frilly, and so on. Most resemble cabbage leaves in some way.
- Leaf size: Mature size about 1 foot/30 cm long, 6-8 inches/15-20 cm wide in most. Some cultivars have smaller leaves.
- Stem color: Usually the same as the leaf color -- green, pink, white, purple, etc.
- Likes: Well-drained, moist soil
- Tolerates: Almost any kind of soil or pH, partial shade, salt, heat, cold
- Dislikes: deep shade (will get leggy in very dark areas)
- Uses: Border plant, flower beds, accent plant, container gardens, perennial kale can be used as a hedge tree
Some kale cultivars will "rise up" in the center as they grow, adding a unique and interesting shape to your garden.
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