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Giant Kale

 
Dan Schubart
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We planted some Red Russian Kale (I know, not giant) that produced a profusion of greenery the first year, overwintered, sprouted (think broccolini) and releafed in the spring and produced a bounty of seeds that left kale coming up all over the yard. It's easy to hoe the unwanted and just leave those desired for greens and sprouts. The original seeds were purchased in 1988 and haven't bought any since. Seems not to cross with the multitude of mustards we grow and we get to eat it pretty nearly all year 'round.
 
Sunny Baba
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These are two kale varieties that have grown tall for me. They have overwintered in New Mexico and grown 6 foot tall at least. Thousand headed gets a lot of side shoots and I have a few plants that have gone through their second winter, unprotected outside with the lowest temp down to 5 degrees.

Thousandhead Kale
Ancient variety from the UK was mentioned in Vilmorin’s The Vegetable Garden in 1885 as a productive, multi-branching type that also goes by the name “branching borecole”. Vilmorin also mentions that the variety originally hailed from western France. Peter Miller of Kings Seed mentioned that Thousandhead kale was long appreciated in the UK as a fodder crop, but it has been re-discovered as a tasty culinary variety. Leaves are smooth with lightly curled edges for easier pest management. Those who have struggled with cabbage worms understand how caterpillars love to hide in the folds of curly kale leaves. This variety is just lightly curled at the edges, making caterpillars easier to spot and treat! This seed was sourced from Kings Seed of England; the King family has been in the seed business for centuries. John Kemp King began selling seeds in 1793; his grandson Ernest William began Kings Seeds, and it has been in business for 130 years! Kings Seed is the last remaining horticultural wholesale seed house left in England and still a family affair. Miller has worked for the company 55 years, and his grandfather also worked for Kings since 1913( from Baker Creek Heirlooms)


Groniger Kale

Brassica napas Open Pollinated  Heirloom 50 days. Grows 6" to 6'
Dutch heirloom grown and eaten for centuries in central Holland. Young leaves are flat with tender, juicy red stems. These may be harvested in spring when about 6" and continue harvesting through the spring and on into winter. Grow as you would other kales.
Use in salads, stir-frys, soups etc. and enjoy the fine taste of this winter hardy variety that bears a resemblance to Red Russian but more tender and juicier  leaves. When we grow this plant it is a sampling of medieval food. Thank you to Carol Deppe for introducing it to us. ( from Nichols Nursery)
DSC04983.JPG
sequoia and the thousand headed kale
sequoia and the thousand headed kale
 
Mandy Launchbury-Rainey
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Everybody grows this here. I often see my neighbour walking back from her huerto with armfuls of the stuff. That and 'gruelos' - turnip greens.
 
Chelsea Hartweg
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Luke Perkins wrote:I recently started a website dedicated to spreading plant material and information about purple tree collards. They can reach over ten feet tall and are hardy down to around 20° F (-7° C). Depending on how you pruned it I think you could definitely get a walking stick out of one. I will try to take some photos of the trunks on one of our older tree collards tomorrow. They are probably over two inches in diameter. Our crop of dino kale that we planted last summer overwintered and was about three to five feet tall before going to seed last month.



Your website is awesome, and I am DEFINITELY trying this plant out on our new homestead! I'm wondering. We live in Raleigh, NC (zone 7b/8a), and I'm trying to think if I could manipulate a microclimate that could help it survive the winter. Do you think one of those fabric tree covers would help it? Or even just keeping it out of the wind? I would rather not have to move it. If this works, I want to plant a LOT of them as fodder for animals. Our homestead is only .94 acres, but I want to grow as much as we can to support the animals both for health, environment, and reducing feed costs. This seems like a really good possibility since i know some folks grow microgreens or sprouted grains as animal food. Maybe this could work too!
 
Kali Hermitage
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Alice Tagloff wrote:http://www.anniesannuals.com/plants/view/?id=3600
Has a 'Richmond’s Pride’, a purple 'tree collard' that grows to 6-10' and 3' wide.



Wow, thanks for this! Annie's is my local nursey. Now I know what to plant in my dedicated greens bed!
 
Tina Saravia
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r ranson wrote:When I was young, I use to love the story of the giant kale.  My father grew up in Wartime England and the rationing that followed, and I've always loved listening to what life was like back then.  He lived in the country, not far from London, and remembers walking past the different crops on his way to school.  Through the gaps in the hedgerow, he would see the Mangelwurzel and the fodder kale.  Fodder kale, he told me as he tucked me in at night, was like being in a forest.  Great stocks, sometimes up to 12 foot heigh, as thick as your leg, and big broad leaves.  The kids played hide and seek among the kale, much to the farmer's dismay.  

It is my dream to grow Giant Kale something like this:


image borrowed from here


What is Giant Kale?  I'm not sure yet.  I would like it to be about 6 foot tall by the first fall, and be delicious for feeding humans and animals during the winter.  I imagine as the lower leaves are harvested, a forest of kale trunks, with a canopy of massive leaves above.  Maybe between the kale, could grow some over-winter pulses or grain.  In the spring, I chop the kale stocks for animal feed or to be chipped into mulch, and the grain or pulse can take off.  The leaves of the kale are so high, the sun could still get at the plants beneath them, because our sun is so low in the sky during the winter.  But maybe, having that canopy would slow the changes in temperature in the soil.  That's what I imagine for Giant Kale.  

Until I find my Giant Kale, let's call any kale that grows over 5 foot high in the first year and has large leaves, giant.

One day, while idly flipping through a Thomson & Morgan seed catalogue, I discovered Giant Jersey, or walking stick kale.  The leaves from this kale were very tasty when young.  The animals love it too.  The fodder kale stocks use to be crushed for animal feed in the winter in England.

These also make the most amazing kale chips.

I saved some seeds from those plants.  I think our weather was just a bit too dry in the summer and too wet in the winter for this variety of kale.  It grew well enough, but it didn't thrive like I had hoped.  But it was enough of a success to make me want to grow more.  So I'm looking for a kale that grows tall, fast, and has sweet flat leaves that will feed both us and the livestock.  

Here's a few varieties I've come across.  

Richters SeedZoo
 has a kale that looks promising, called Pilgrims Kale

This is a giant kale that came to the Americas from Spain centuries ago, presumably with early settlers. It became a family heirloom that is still passed on from generation to generation. It can get up to 5ft (1.5m) tall, and even taller when it flowers. SeedZoo contributor, Lorraine Collett, says that the leaves get so big they look like an elephants ear. Imagine leaves that get up to 20in/50cm long and 12in/30cm wide! The leaves can be used in soups, stews, stir-fries and can be used like cabbage leaves to make meat rolls. Hummingbirds love to visit the yellow flowers. If the flowers are allowed to set seeds, the plant will reseed itself where winters are mild. Easy to grow. Happily grows as a spring-planted annual where winters are more severe.



Baker Creak has three varieties that look promising: Forage Kale Proteor, Marrow Stem Kale, and Tronchuda Kale.  They may or may not turn out to be Giant Kale, but they look like a good selections of genetics to start a breeding project with.  


Does anyone out there have a giant kale they love?  Anyone else growing the stuff?  Do you have a seed source you could share?




The kale leaves you have in the picture look like the perennial tree collard we have here. They turn purple and sweet in the cold months. They grow tall after a few years and twisty and easy to propagate from stems; and it grows fast.

https://anniesannuals.com/plants/view/?id=3600

I’m trying to cut them back short periodically to see if I can grow a stronger trunk. Our chickens love them. I’ve cooked it multiple ways, with ham hocks, salt pork, into pesto ... and wraps. I’ve also started blanching the stems to eat with dips; currried with coconut cream. I read someone made it into Saag. I’m gonna try that.
And Kale chips. I wonder how they’d turn out in the Sun Oven?

I’ve also grown Kale “Pentland Brig’ . I started a new one Last fall from seeds that I got from Adaptive Seeds. The label says only 2 ft. But my old one that died from harlequin bug infestation (my bad, it was planted where I couldn’t observe it regularly), grew at to least 5 ft.

The leaves of those were (and are) definitely curlier than the ‘Richmond’s Pride’ tree collard.


image.jpg
Kale ‘Pentland Brig’
Kale ‘Pentland Brig’
 
Ashley Cottonwood
pollinator
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Walking Stick Kale from Baker Creek Seeds

Baker Creek: Heirloom Seeds
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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I do have one 'walking stick kale' plant. But it didn't become as giant as I hoped. Only about a meter high (3 feet?). The leaves are not as tasty as the other kales I know (like curly kale and cavolo nero).
I suppose I didn't make a photo of it. I can't find't any.
I do have photos here of my perennial kale, which has about the same leaves, but doesn't grow that high.

kale leaves last winter

perennial kale in a new garden bed (2019)
 
Hans Quistorff
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Chelsea Hartweg wrote:
Your website is awesome, and I am DEFINITELY trying this plant out on our new homestead! I'm wondering. We live in Raleigh, NC (zone 7b/8a), and I'm trying to think if I could manipulate a microclimate that could help it survive the winter. Do you think one of those fabric tree covers would help it? Or even just keeping it out of the wind? I would rather not have to move it. If this works, I want to plant a LOT of them as fodder for animals. Our homestead is only .94 acres, but I want to grow as much as we can to support the animals both for health, environment, and reducing feed costs. This seems like a really good possibility since i know some folks grow microgreens or sprouted grains as animal food. Maybe this could work too!


This was posted last year. Did it work for you? I am in the same hardiness zone so it should.  I ate leaves from winter hardy kale all winter and the plants produced abundant seeds the next summer. I even harvested frozen leaves for fresh use. This last summer I harvested 3 pounds of seed + a bin full of pods that I have not winnowed yet. The chickens crave the kale for the sulfur in it to make the yolks in their eggs. Problematic for feeding milking animals because it flavors the milk.
 
Greg Martin
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Here's a picture from Baker Creek of their Thousandhead Kale:


Sold out before I could order some...drats!
 
john mcginnis
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I am not a big kale fan due to taste but the vitamins are not to be missed. Sooooo....

I dehydrate the leaves, grind them into a powder then add the result liberally into any casseroles we make for dinner. Small amounts in most soups are good too.
 
Paul Kurtz
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Could someone please give an update on growing giant kale? Success or failure? (Actually, it sounds a bit like tomato trees.)
 
r ranson
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I've been working mostly on survival the first few generations, but am now culling for size and shape.  Probably be a few more generations before I can get to my dream kale.
 
Kc Simmons
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I ordered the Thousand Head and Walking Still Kales from Baker Creek this spring to try to breed giant kale. So far, I've only done a couple of 6 packs of each, but noticed the seedlings haven't been nearly as vigorous as the Siberian or Russian kales I usually plant (especially the walking stick). They were very vulnerable to snails & caterpillars when I set them out to harden, and I lost a few of each. Since then, I've potted them in larger containers & fertilized them with comfrey and urine tea in hopes of getting some size on them before I plant them out to be at the total mercy of the pests.
If they don't live or produce this spring, I'll probably try the rest of the seeds for the fall garden.

I'm still hoping to try the tree collards one day. They sound fantastic.
 
Jenner Aycock-Jandreau
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If you want a way to use your kale without having to deal with the taste, and have it go easy on your gut; you can dehydrate it and grind it to a powder, for use in fruit smoothies, Soups and stews etc; all the goodness without the strong taste or strong effect of the plant fibers. Palatable and more easily absorbed.
 
Julia Winter
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I got a perennial kale at Portland Nursery a few years ago, and it's both lovely and delicious.  I harvest by pruning off branches, then I pull all the large leaves and leave the littlest leaves on the very end.  Then I find a nice spot and just make a deep hole (like with a stick) and stick the almost leafless stem in there.  It makes a new plant almost every time.

My hugelkultur berm at Ten O'Clock Acres has over a dozen, because when I planted the sticks I figured only some of them would survive.  I was wrong - they all did!
-UN-L-I8SS6KSn9qm4GwZA.jpg
variegated perennial kale
variegated perennial kale
 
Srikham Hesenius
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In East Frisia, a region in Northern Germany near the Netherlands border my Parents in law and almost every neighbor is growing this giant Kale.
Traditional after the first frost (otherwise it is tasting bitter) there is almost in every village the traditional "Gruenkohlessen" and weh you look under "Kochbar.de" for original ostfriesischer Gruenkohl then you will find recipes that are far from this world.
There is nothing what you can compare with Giant Kale cooked with smoked meat, Sausages and the special for this tradition prepared "Pinkel" sausage...

Here you will find more about this delicious tradition:

https://www.thespruceeats.com/gruenkohl-pinkel-kale-kale-sausage-recipe-1447074

 
Greg Martin
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Julia's lovely perennial kale image:
 
Anita Martin
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Srikham Hesenius wrote:
There is nothing what you can compare with Giant Kale cooked with smoked meat, Sausages and the special for this tradition prepared "Pinkel" sausage...


A friend of my daughter chose to have a traditional Grünkohlessen for her birthday (her parents are from the North of Germany). My daughter ate it out of politeness, but she was not convinced
I guess you have to grow up with certain dishes in order to cherish them. Kale or collards were not eaten in my family (much less in Argentina, home of my husband).

But I have added more veggies (into garden and diet) from the brassica family over the last two years or so, not only radishes but Asian greens and Red Russian, sprouting broccoli, white and red cabbage and sweetheart cabbage and similar.

I have only recently learned that some people manage to keep their kale perennial (mostly in milder regions of Germany and lately with the mild winter), and there is also a perennial kale that you can buy from nurseries or get from seed exchange groups, but I am not enthusiastic enough for that!

EDIT: Adding some pictures for your amusement.
Here is a picture of an inthronisation event for the "Kale King", in this case the head of the German Green Party, Robert Habeck.
(In other years the kings, vice-kings, sultans etc. had an immigration background)

In several of our Northern "counties" the Grünkohlessen is a real event, groups of (young) people walk throuh the countryside with the "kale palm" and a little wagon full of food and spirits:

Last picture is a cartoon, where the chef says "Now where are those giant loads of kale you promised for my TV cooking show?"


(As I am located in Bavaria this whole setting is almost as exotic for me as it is for you!)

 
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