|Brassica oleracea var. acephala ‘Scarlet Curled’
(BRASS-ih-kah oh-ley-AY-see-ah variety ah-SEF-ah-lah)
Common name: scarlet kale, curly scarlet kale
|Description: An open pollinated, tall, ultra-hardy plant with large, frilly leaves. New leaves are blue-green in colour, maturing to a vibrant deep purple-red. Biennial.
Special Notes: This is a relatively new variety from the UK. As with other kales, ‘Scarlet Curled’ is full of healthy nutrients and anti-cancer properties. But do not limit this one to the vegetable garden! The gorgeous frilled leaves on this cultivar add a delightful splash of sensuous red tones to the ornamental garden. Just be sure to place it where you can still easily harvest a few leaves for the morning smoothie or dinner salad.
How to Grow: Kale prefer humus-rich soil, although they are decently tolerant of almost any soil conditions. Soil acidity is another matter…preferring a pH of 6.5 – 6.8. Targeting this range will greatly benefit the plant’s abilities to draw up necessary nutrients from the soil.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, timing for direct seeding kale in the garden is early March…so as soon as you can work in the garden, work lime into the designated spot in the vegetable garden where kale will be sowed or transplanted. This should be done 2 – 3 weeks prior to seeding.
Soil temperature range for kale seed germination is 10 – 30 °C (50 – 85 °F), but they have been known to germinate at low soil temperatures of 5 °C (41 °F). At the other end of the scale, being a cool season crop, seed germination is very poor at temperatures nearing 35 °C (95 °F).
If you are itching to get growing before March, you can start kale seed indoors under grow lights. I typically start a few kale varieties around mid-February to transplant out in mid- to late March.
Direct sow seeds about a half inch (1.25 cm) deep and space 8 inches (20 cm). Rows should be 24 inches (60 cm) apart. Thin seedlings to a spacing of 18 inches (45 cm). It is possible to transplant the thinned seedlings, if you want lots of kale. This is best done when the plants are at least 8 inches (20 cm) tall and have three or four leaves. Bury the seedlings a little deeper than what they were initially. It won’t hurt the plants.
To harvest, pick 2 – 3 lower leaves from each plant. Do not cut the developing bud in the centre of the plant or you will stop its growth.
For a fall and winter crop of kale, sow seeds in pots or starter trays in mid-July to early August. Sowing in pots or trays allows you to keep the seeds out of the hot sun of high summer. Transplant seedlings into the garden or cool frames when they are tall enough. Be sure to water young seedlings regularly in dry weather. Cover or mulch heavily when fall temperatures threaten to dip to freezing range. This will ensure a harvest of leaves through the winter months.
Pests: Early plantings of vegetables typically come under fire from a number of pests, hungry for a meal. Kale is no different. Cabbageworms, larvae of the small white cabbage butterflies (Pieris rapae) can be a real problem. (For information about this pest, click here.) Covering the young seedlings with floating row cover will help keep the female small whites from laying their eggs on the leaves but be sure to anchor the edges of the fabric securely.
The cabbage aphid, Brevicoryne brassicae, can also be a real pest. Keep a close watch for these as you do not want them to get a foothold on your plants. Because of their incredible reproduction capabilities, one cabbage aphid can produce up to 41 generations in a single season…depending on how long your growing season is. If you see any, hit them with a strong jet of water from the hose to knock them off. Or you can use a soap spray of 1 – 2 teaspoons (5 – 10 ml) dish soap diluted in 4 cups (1 litre) of water. Whichever method you use, be sure to repeat the treatment every 7 days to catch the ones you missed and any new ones which have been born in the meantime.
In our Zone 7a garden: We grew ‘Scarlet Curled’ for the first time this year and were very pleased with its performance, overall health, and taste. However, the jury is still out on its winter-hardy capabilities. Early indications are favourable, though. Two nights of -8.0 °C and -8.5 °C temperatures only caused the leaves to droop very slightly…and lasted only until the temps climbed back to -5 °C and above.
In the kitchen, we really enjoyed the addition of deep-red ‘Scarlet Curled’ leaves to our kale salad. Combined with the dark grey-green leaves of ‘Lacinato’, the blue-green of ‘Dwarf Blue Scotch Curled’, the bright green of ‘Scotch Curled’, and blue-red of ‘Red Russian’ definitely brought the salad to life.
Posted on November 19, 2017