Plant profile: Perennial kale

Perennial kale in garden January

Kale, the super food of millennials. Also popular with sheep. And rightly so!

Kale is a nutritious green, packed with vitamins. It’s particularly high in vitamin C and quite fittingly vitamin K!

How does your kale grow?
Photo: Jonathan Billinger / Curly kale by the A17

Another super thing about kale is that it’s really easy to grow yourself. In my experience, all brassicas are easily grown from seed. You don’t need great warmth for germination, about 10 degrees is enough. So, they can be started early in the Spring. An even easier way of making more perennial kale plants is by cuttings.

Year old couve galega Portuguese kale alongside purple sprouting brocolli and wild strawberries

Diversity

There are different kinds of perennial kale, each with different growth habits and qualities.

Taunton Deane
Daubenton’s
Purple kale tree offspring
Couve galega

Taunton Deane perennial kale

Ali: I have had this kale in my garden for about 5 years. It doesn’t flower (so far) and is growing in a loam/clay soil in a part of the garden that gets sun in the afternoon in the winter.

Taunton Deane has a lovely purple tinge to the stems and ribs. It has grown to be 6 ft wide, and 4 ft tall. It gradually falls over as it makes upwards growth and the stem goes to the ground where they start to make upward growth again. The stems on my 5 yr old plant are woody. Younger plants have fresher looking purple stems. It is possible to cut back in such a way as to keep this kale smaller.

It’s recommended that you feed the soil of this kale, but I never have apart from some granulated seaweed and allowing plant debris to gather on the ground, and it still grows and grows.

I propagate new plants every year to make sure I have a back up plant if this one dies. We eat so much of this kale, we probably harvest enough kale for 2 people twice a week, every week of the year! Pigeons also like to eat it, but there is so much that I don’t net it from the pigeons. They seem to have got a taste for it in spring. It also succumbs to white fly and white cabbage butterfly, but neither of these affect it too much as it is such a huge plant there is enough to spare for the insects. It’s better to protect a younger plant from these critters though.

Young plants from this kale will be available from us this summer.

Perennial kale in garden January
5 year old Taunton Deane kale growing well in January 2021 before arctic weather came!

Daubenton’s perennial kale

Ryan: This kale gives tender leaves, smaller than Taunton Deane and is again quite prolific.

It’s easy to nip out to the garden and pick a handful of leaves to add to a stir fry. Plenty leftover to feed the hens too. Just like Taunton Deane, it can be propagated by stem cuttings, though they take a little while to root and like to be kept just moist.

We’ll have plants of this variety available too.

2 year old Daubenton’s grown from a stem cutting

Purple kale tree

More accurately, the variety we have is Son of PKT. With thanks to Alan Carter of A Scottish Forest Garden. Alan has been breeding different kales and this is the result of one of his trials. We’re excited to continue the experiments and pleased to share the results with you too. Maybe you fancy having a go at making your own variety of perennial kale to suit your tastes.

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