Kale 'Red Russian' seedlings Brassica oleracea var. acephela ‘Red Russian’
(BRASS-ih-kah  oh-ley-AY-see-ah  var.  ah-SEF-ah-lah)
Family: Brassicaceae

Common name: Ragged Jack kale, Rouge de Russie
Type: biennial 
Ht: 24-36 in (60-90 cm)  Spread: 18-24 in (45-60 cm)
Aspect: full sun; partial shade
Soil: fertile, humus-rich, well-draining
Water: regular
Days to maturity: 21 for baby leaves; 50 for whole plants 

Description: Leaves are flat, deeply incised, frilly not curled, and are grey-green in colour with purplish-red stems. Colour in the veins tends to brighten up after a frost.


Special Notes: This Siberian heirloom, open-pollinated variety was brought to Canada in 1885 by Russian traders. Unfortunately, it fell out of favour, but was re-introduced in 1977 by an herbalist named Betty Jacobs. This variety is sometimes referred to as “Canadian broccoli”.

This variety is good eaten fresh in salads, steamed, cooked in stir-fries, baked as chips, added to soups, or frozen. Indeed, it can be prepared much like spinach. Colour will turn a darker green when cooked.

Very nutritious….rich in vitamins and minerals. 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. They also remain tasty through the warm summer months…much better than other kale varieties.

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. If you are growing for baby salad leaves, space seedlings 4 – 6 in (10 – 15 cm) apart. For whole plants, allow 12 in (30 cm) between plants and space rows 18 in (45 cm) apart. Place the seedlings slightly deeper than they were in their pots.

Grows well in a container.

Be sure to water seedlings in dry weather. Plants also benefit from regular feedings of a liquid fertilizer.

Harvest leaves as needed. They will store in the fridge for up to 10 days, wrapped in paper towel and placed in a plastic bag. You can also freeze kale leaves 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