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January 13, 2010

What can I say about kale that hasn’t already been said?  A friend saw it once in our garden and wondered aloud, “Isn’t that the stuff that grows at the mall?”  Friend or foe, love or hate, kale has a place in most gardens.  Super easy to grow, and easy on the eyes, it serves as winter hardy fare here for us and our hens.  Then after the rigors of winter, it puts forth multiple tender, broccoli-like seed shoots, that we promptly gobble up.

But, like the cabbage, we have some performers and some sissies.  While I harvested yesterday, I took some photos to show the differences in the varieties.  All in the same row, most hardy and a couple a sissies thrown in for good measure.  By starting all the varieties in this planting at the same time and subjecting them to the same growing conditions, I can see who is a keeper and who doesn’t make the grade.

Lacinato (OP) always does well here, but you can see by the white mid-ribs and discoloration on some of the leaves that it did take a beating in our cold December weather.

But, the important thing is that the tip is not damaged, and is beginning to grow a little.  The chickens can utilize the damaged parts, and if I pick a few leaves off of each plant when I harvest, it will continue to grow.

Redbor (F1), I have never been disappointed with this variety and it’s cohort Winterbor (F!)  Prolific and cold hardy, but a hybrid.  The choice is yours.  I grow both, and my views on heirloom seeds and hybrids belong in a post devoted to that subject.

Winterbor (F1), very cold hardy, even more so than Lacinato.  From a distance you don’t see the frost damage, but in this close-up you can see a little discoloration in the leaves.  If I was selling this, these leaves would go to the chickens, but I am not, so I can deal with a little imperfection here.

And here we have White Russian, purportedly very cold hardy.  I will not grow this one anymore for winter use.  It is a waste of my time.  It’s fine for summer, but we hardly eat kale in the summer anyway since we have so many other more greens going at that time.

Lacinato Rainbow from Wild Garden Seed, this one does pretty well, and is as hardy as it’s parents:  Lacinato and Redbor.

A Trapper Creek escapee – looks like a Redbor in the woodpile to me.  I grew kale and cabbage in the same spot here last year, (quick – call the garden rotation police!)  This seedling (and others that did succumb to the cold) came up last fall and survived the weeding, and has thrived.  It tastes pretty good too.

I realized I didn’t take any pictures of the cabbage that didn’t cope so well, so here it is – in all its squishy glory.  So as you can see from these last two posts – variety selection is very important from a self-reliant gardeners standpoint.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2010 10:05 am

    Great post – I’m going to try growing kale this coming year, and it’s good to know some varieties to try!

    As a heads up – it’s a bit hard to tell, but it looks like there might be some scerlotinia growing on that cabbage (small, roundish, black masses). If there is, I wouldn’t recommend composting, as the fungus can survive (and thrive) in the compost heap and pose a risk for future crops.

    • January 13, 2010 12:48 pm

      KB, kale is a great productive crop, you won’t be disappointed.

      I doubt it is sclerotinia since I didn’t see any signs of the fungus before the cabbage froze. The heads of all types were healthy – but it is a good point to make, Thanks!

  2. January 13, 2010 11:03 am

    I have never grown white russian, but my red russian has done as well or better than lacinato in the cold of winter. Admittedly I am near a lake in Seattle, so probably a warmer microclimate.

  3. January 13, 2010 11:12 am

    Thanks for the trial garden info. And yay! I already ordered Lacinto and Red Russian! So I won’t bother ordering anything else.

  4. January 13, 2010 1:06 pm

    wow, I’m a big fan of Lacinto… but Lacinto Rainbow is absolutely gorgeous! I like that broader leaf, too. This is a wonderful post…. important to see the losers as well as the winners. Somehow it makes the point more emphatically. Thanks!

    • January 14, 2010 7:59 am

      Hayden, with some cover all these will thrive, I am just trying to go without – you know in case the end comes or something… .

  5. January 13, 2010 4:05 pm

    Tonight was a bad night to cook cabbage…


  6. January 13, 2010 6:43 pm

    I will second Adam’s recommendation of Red Russian. We have been very happy with it and it last well into our Minnesota fall /early winter beautifully. Sad to hear about Lacinto /Cavalo Nero being a bit iffy in colder weather. I may still grow some next year anyway.

    And you have to deep fry some up with a bit of salt! We love that here.

    • January 14, 2010 6:35 am

      Frustrated Farmer Rick, that recipe sounds great – always on the look-out for good ones. 🙂

      As for Red Russian, we used to grow it by the bucket full for mesclun, but it always pooped out in the winter, like its brother White Russian. If you’re growing under cover almost any kale will make it through, but I am trying to subject these varieties to field conditions – so that’s why I am experimenting so much.

      This is the first year that Lacinato has failed a bit. It is still edible and growing so I’m not bagging it just yet.

  7. shayne21 permalink
    January 13, 2010 7:13 pm

    Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  8. January 13, 2010 9:12 pm

    MOH, where now are the kale recipes? That is my go-to veggie in the winter and what I have the most of ready in the garden right now. Like Adam I too am in Seattle close to a lake and have red, white and lacinato kale going plus a few types of cabbage. Many of the cabbage bit the dust in early/mid Dec. Any suggestions for varieties of chinese cabbage to try?

    • January 14, 2010 7:44 am

      SE, I haven’t grown too many Napa type cabbages, since having such success with Melissa, which is so tender and sweet throughout the seasons.

      I think our rainfall here is huge factor in plants over-wintering, spinach just falls apart with the constant battering of the rain. We are in the Cascade foothills and the clouds really start to compress and dump here. The kale sheds the rain better, and holds up so much better, and it makes a great spinach substitute in Florentine dishes. 🙂

  9. January 14, 2010 4:35 am

    Post bookmarked! I love kale, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to grow a winter garden, so this gives me a good place to start. Any and all kale is tasty in my view, so its just a matter of figuring out what will work in my zone 6. Do you have one or two that you prefer taste-wise?

    • January 14, 2010 7:53 am

      mangochild, Fedco has a great selection, and carries Wild Garden’s mixes and varieties. It all tastes good, but what I find more important when I really examine my thoughts about kale, is while the pretty, lacy leaves of the Red Russian types are attractive, the broader leaves of Lacinato and the Lacinato Rainbow give me more to work with in the kitchen. So each leaf yields a little more food – and that is a good thing 🙂

  10. January 14, 2010 6:53 am

    So, I’m looking forward to your post on heirlooms and hybrids…
    I just ordered my Redbor seeds for this year in spite of it being an F1, and vaguely wondered if I could save the seeds from the reddest and get an open-pollinated variety in the end.

    • January 14, 2010 8:04 am

      Clare, I am sure to spark a controversy if I start that post – but what the heck! Frank Morton has been doing great things with kale, and using Redbor in his breeding with great results. The volunteer I pictured is doing great, it has a tinge of purple from Redbor, but has a beautiful glaucous color too, and the best part it has survived total neglect and tastes good too!

  11. January 14, 2010 8:12 am

    I love the look of the Redbor kale. We grew it once and it did not do that well for us but after seeing yours I may have to give it another chance. I would have to say that hands down my very hardiest kale is the Winterbor type. I wish it was the Lacinto as that is one of our favorites…what would we do without kale. I enjoy all of your posts on cabbage, kale, and all the root veggies as they have given us some great ideas on what might and might not work in our own garden.

  12. January 14, 2010 11:56 am

    I am fascinated by your cabbage in the snow. I am inspired to try it. what varities would you suggest that can withstand NE snow and winter? Do you start from seed as well?


  13. January 14, 2010 12:40 pm

    I wish I could report on how my varieties of kale did during the December cold, but sweet husband pulled them all up in the fall “because they didn’t look like food.” Next year, I’m using your idea of marking them with construction tape before he gets out there.

  14. January 14, 2010 5:59 pm

    Thank you for introducing the various type of kale. I tried them a few times, but couldn’t get over their toughness…

    It would be really good if you could share how you cook them 🙂

  15. January 14, 2010 6:48 pm

    Thanks for posting this – always good to see which varietals others are having luck or lack of luck with.

  16. January 14, 2010 8:12 pm

    One way even my kids will eat it is creamed. Make a white sauce (1 T butter, 1 T flour, cook for a few minutes, whisk in 1 cup of milk, cook till sauce thickens) then add 4 cups finely shredded kale and cook on low for about 40 min. The milk will sweeten it up.

    Another way is to braise until soft it in a little chicken stock with some finely diced garlic and anchovy and a handful of raisins.

    Or braise in chicken stock & garlic then dot the top with chevre until that melts.

    It’s also great in colcannon or sausage bean soup.

  17. January 18, 2010 2:01 pm

    Hey there! This is the first year I’ve ever eaten kale consistently, though presently we are getting ours from the organic store. I have to tell you how much I love the lacinato, and how gorgeous the redbor is…the color is fantastic! We use them and chard in the smoothies we’ve been doing so much of lately, and boy do I feel great. Who knew I’d fall hard for beautiful greens? I was used to collards and turnip greens cooked the Southern way, long and slow all day. But the kale is just beautiful and I feel so good eating it. Thanks for showing the rainbow lacinato…didn’t even know it existed. Some folks around here call the lacinato “dinosaur” kale, though I don’t know why. But it sure “eats good” 🙂

  18. January 18, 2010 10:24 pm

    So happy to see your post! I’m addicted to kale right now and my current favorite recipe is Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with tons of garlic and lemon. Glad we’re not the only ones with some slimy cabbage…


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