Know your Kale

  • Kale or borecole is a form of cabbage (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group), green or purple, in which the central leaves do not form a head. 

  • It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms. 

  • The species Brassica oleracea contains a wide array of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts. 

  • The cultivar group Acephala also includes spring greens and collard greens, which are extremely similar genetically.

  • Not only is Kale a tasty vegetable with a long cropping season but it is a very attractive vegetable as well. Many gardeners grow them in their borders purely for their ornamental value, especially over winter.

  • Kale is resistant to most pests and diseases and grows in almost any site and position. 

  • Seems to be a favourite of both the small and large Cabbage White butterflies, and their caterpillars can strip kale of all of its foliage. The only safe protection from this pest would seem to be to protect the young plants with butterfly-proof netting.

  • Tolerant of most conditions and maintenance-free once planted, kale is an excellent addition to any vegetable garden.

  • Unlike growing other cruciferous vegetables, growing kale is virtually effortless. 

  • Kale will grow well even in poor soil, and is generally untroubled by the many garden pests, such as cutworms and root maggots, that plague other brassicas. 

  • A cool weather crop, kale will tolerate freezing temperatures up to five degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius.) In fact, the flavour of tender baby leaves are enhanced by a few hard frosts. 

  • Although kale is more heat-tolerant than many other brassicas, gardeners in very hot climates will get the best flavor by growing kale very early in the spring or in late autumn.

History of Kale

  • Until the end of the Middle Ages, kale was one of the most common green vegetables in all of Europe. 

  • Curly leafed varieties of cabbage already existed along with flat leafed varieties in Greece in the fourth century BC. These forms, which were referred to by the Romans as Sabellian kale, are considered to be the ancestors of modern kales. 

  • Today one may differentiate between varieties according to the low, intermediate, or high length of the stem, with varying leaf types. 

  • The leaf colours range from light green through green, dark green and violet-green to violet-brown. Russian kale was introduced into Canada (and then into the U.S.) by Russian traders in the 19th century.

  • During World War II, the cultivation of kale in the U.K. was encouraged by the Dig for Victory campaign. 

  • The vegetable was easy to grow and provided important nutrients to supplement those missing from a normal diet because of wartime rationing.

  • Kai-lan, a separate cultivar of Brassica oleracea much used in Chinese cuisine, is somewhat similar to kale in appearance and is occasionally called "kale" in English.

Varieties of Kale

  • Kale Lutes can be classified by leaf type:

    1. Curly leaved (Scots Kale Lutes)

    2. Plain leaved

    3. Rape Kale Lutes

    4. Leaf and spear (a cross between curly leaved and plain leaved Kale Lutes)

    5. Cavolo nero (also known as black cabbage, Tuscan Kale Lutes, Lacinato and dinosaur Kale Lutes).

  • Because Kale Lutes can grow well into winter, one variety of Rape Kale Lutes is called 'Hungry Gap', named after the period in winter in traditional agriculture when little could be harvested.