KALE CAN BE STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL. I made it the focus of my front garden one year, a broad band of purple-blue leaves right across the garden. It’s a great ornamental edible.
But chewy stir fries, failed attempts at kale chips, and a couple of accidentally steamed caterpillars turned me off of eating kale.
I decided to live life on my terms…and that meant no more kale in my diet. Sure I would grow it for its looks—for the colours and textures it adds to the garden—but would eat no more kale. Chewy kale be gone.
Last year Chris Gark at Martin Farms offered me a cutting of ‘Kosmic Kale.’ Chris trials lots of neat edibles. (I’ll write about that in another post.) I declined the kale cutting at first, but when he raved about how tender it was and what a great pesto the leaves made—and when he said it wasn’t chewy—I thought I’d try it. His plant was 5 years old and had grown to four feet across and four feet tall. He even pruned it into a topiary for a while!
Impressed with this ornamental edible, I called Alice Doyle at Log House Plants in Oregon. Alice is a wholesale grower who introduced the plant to North America. She tells me it was bred by Dick Degenhardt in Boskoop, Netherlands. An “amazing guy,” she says. She had been sending him unusual plants to use in his breeding program. One day he said to her, “Hey I got something you might be interested in.” She says he worked for years to breed ‘Kosmic Kale.’ “He gave it to me,” she said.
Because ‘Kosmic Kale’ doesn’t flower, it is reproduced by stem and root cuttings. Alice explains that she originally named it ‘Dick’s Picotee Kale,’ but now calls it ‘Kosmic Kale.’
Alice has a plant that’s over 6 years old. She finds that the leaves are tender whether the weather is hot or cold. As I write this blog post I pinch myself because I’m writing about kale—so I go to my cold frame to pick the oldest leaf I can find on my plant. It’s not chewy!
Plants are hardy to about -12°C (10°F.) and do best in full sun. This summer I will be growing mine in a big container that I can stow in my garage for the winter.