|Brassica olecerea var. acephela
(BRASS-ih-kah oh-ley-AY-see-ah var. ah-SEF-ah-lah
Common name: dinosaur kale, ‘Black Tuscan’, ‘Tuscan’, black kale, palm tree kale
Description: This plant’s most stunning feature are its leaves. Grey-green and strap-like, they have a blister-like, embossed texture. Speculation claims this effect resembles the skin of a dinosaur, hence one of its nicknames. The leaves emerge from a strong central stalk and if you stretch your imagination somewhat, you can see plumes of ostrich-like feathers adorning the whole plant.
Special Notes: This variety is an Italian descendant of a Mediterranean kale, dating back to the 18th century, and likely earlier. Records show Thomas Jefferson listed this plant in his 1777 garden at Monticello.
It is sometimes referred to as ‘Cavolo Nero’ which is Italian for “black kale”, another of its common names.
The taste is sweeter than many other kale varieties with an earthy overtone. Leaves are more delicate than curly kale types. An assured favourite with chefs, this plant is often called “the darling of the culinary world”. It is ideal for eating raw in salads.
Very nutritious. One cup (250 ml) provides more than 100 % of the daily value (DV) of vitamins A and K. It also provides 88 % of the DV for vitamin C. It is one of the richest vegetative sources of calcium and protein, as well as being a good source for such vital minerals as iron, magnesium, and manganese. Kale is also a rich source of organosulphur compounds which are linked to cancer prevention.
A winter hardy variety which easily withstands frosts and snow without any cover in our Zone 7a garden. Indeed, the leaves are even sweeter after a frost.
Good pest and disease resistance. Aphids may be a problem. Deer proof.
How to Grow: Start seeds indoors 6 – 8 weeks before last frost date. Or direct seed outdoors 3 – 5 weeks before last frost date. (Typically, the last frost date is the end of April or May 1st in our garden…although it was on April 14th in 2015.) Sow seeds 1.5 cm (1/2 in) deep. Seeds will germinate in temperatures as low as 5 °C (42 °F) and as high as 35 °C (95 °F). Germination takes 3 – 10 days.
Transplant seedlings when they have four leaves and are about 9 in (22 cm) tall. Leave about 18 in (45 cm) between plants and space rows 18 in (45 cm) apart. ‘Lacinato’ gets quite large. Place the seedlings slightly deeper than they were in their pots.
Be sure to water seedlings in dry weather. Plants also benefit from regular feedings of a liquid fertilizer.
To harvest, pick individual leaves starting from the bottom of the stalk and work your way up. This will give the plant a unique palm tree look…the reason behind another of its common names. (One to two leaves = one serving.) Kale leaves will store in the fridge for up to 10 days, wrapped in paper towel and placed in a plastic bag. You can also freeze them for up to 6 months.
One final word on growing kale…or any other members in the Brassica family for that matter. Be sure to rotate this crop! DO NOT plant in the same spot more than once in every four or five years to avoid risk of clubroot. This is a very nasty disease. Once you have it, you are not able to grow any variety of brassicas in that area for a minimum of seven years…and I have heard tell as long as seventeen years. Definitely to be avoided at all costs.
A friend blames the use of soaker hoses for her infestation of clubroot, so you may want to avoid using those on your brassicas, just in case.
And to be doubly sure of keeping clubroot out of your garden, keep all brassicas out of the compost bins. Bag them and send them to the landfill or put them on the burn pile.
Posted on March 10, 2016