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What type of kale to plant?

Posted by RabbitRabbit 9 (My Page) on
Sat, Mar 17, 12 at 17:39

Hi everyone, happy St. Patrick's day! In the spirit of green superfoods, I decided to grow some kale this year, but am wondering what variety to plant.

Recently, when I tried some dinosaur kale it was quite bitter and my kids wouldn't eat it. Then I bought a bag of kale from Trader Joe's and it wasn't bitter at all (don't know what kind it was, but it had ruffled leaf edges). I've searched the forums and there are many plugs for dino kale, but my tasting experience of it hasn't been so good... Is it always bitter, or were my 2 (separate) batches from the farmer's market just an abnormality?

Interestingly enough, the spinach I grow at home is not bitter at all (doesn't have that "iron tang" that some storebought spinach has), so I'm wondering whether it's something in the soil. Thanks so much!!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: What type of kale to plant?

I planted Red Russian last year and have put the rest of the pack in this year because it was so sweet. Bought the seeds from Seed Savers Exchange but I think Johnny's has it, too.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

I grow a lot of Kale because i juice it each day. Lacinato or Dinosaur is my favorite for juicing because it does not get as bitter as Red Russian or Blue curled scotch kale. However, red russian grows extremely fast and will yield more in my experience. I also higly reccomend Redbor Kale. It's quite good and bery ornamental looking in the garden.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

I'm trying Rainbow Lacinato this year. Frank Morton crossed Lacinato with redbor.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

Kale is bitter in the heat. When it gets cold and frosty, it sweetens it.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

I have to admit a preference for the Dinosaur as well, but there may be a variety better suited to your much warmer climate than I have.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

Yes, heat during growth makes kale bitter, but I did find last year that spring-grown red russian was still fairly mild flavored in May, when we generally start heading into weather consistently in the 80s, sometimes hitting 90. That's to give you an idea, you wouod have to translate it into your own climate timeframe. Overwinted blue curled scotch can be quite nice in the very early spring, too. Otherwise it's like collards, a fall and winter crop.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

To the kale veterans out there...

About half my overwintered kale (all Red Russian) are starting to bolt due to the recent 80-degree highs.

Do I cut 'em all to the ground now? Cut the flower stalk and continue trying to harvest?


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

Not a vetran, but one of my collards did the same and I opted to cut it and eat it, because I thought that once flowering was initiated it keeps going and the leaves produced get smaller. I'm keeping the ones that haven't started flowering out there until they do.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

Thanks everyone for the great replies -- that's really helpful! I'm starting to think that it's probably too late to do kale this year then (I'm in the SF bay area) and maybe I should think about doing it in the autumn. However, we still have lows in the 40s right now and even my sweet pea seedlings are growing super sloooowly. Perhaps it's still ok to do kale?


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

When mine bolted, I just kept it. I picked off the flowers, and it kept growing. It was still sweet when the frosts came. The flowers are edible as far as I know anyways.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

ralleia - let them blossom and cook the shoots like broccoli raab, by then your new greens may be about ready to start harvesting.

RabbitRabbit - it can't hurt to put some in now, but save the bulk of your seed for a fall/winter crop. You can cut the bottom leaves off of your solanaceous plants and seed the fall kale underneath. After the nightshades stop producing, just cut the stems at the soil line and let the kale take over. Plan to start seeding about a month before first frost. You can do the same with spinach and peas for fall, too (a few weeks earlier for the peas, they're always a gamble in fall).


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.USA (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 19, 12 at 19:35

Lettuce can be bitter when it flowers/bolts.
I grow red kale some Winters for color in salads.
I grow collard year around & have them on the 4th of July.
I never had bitter kale or collards.
You should try it & tell us what you think.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

Thanks so much everyone for the great advice. I just got some Russian Red kale seedlings at the farmer's market, so I'm going to put them in and see how they do. They are so pretty anyway that I'm growing them in between flowers as part of an edible landscape. If it gets hot, I'll just harvest them small!


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

Ralleia, you should let some of your russian go to seed, it's a fabulous self-sower and does not cross with weeds or mustards like most breeds of brassica do.


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RE: What type of kale to plant?

In USDA zone 9 you might be able to grow your kale all summer - especially if you have a space that gets afternoon shade(it doesn't need full sun in CA). I grew it year round in z9/Sunset14.

I found the easiest way to cook it is to sliver it in long strips and throw it in the water with pasta - for kids, even the sweetest kale may be a push if it's cooked up just as a side green - sneak it in first :-)

The kale I grew the most came from a combination packet from Renee's Garden seed years ago and I'd saved that seed. Green with white and flattish, not highly curled. Can't really find it easily these days so I'm trying her Portugese kale (supposedly sweet and more heat tolerant, but this is my first year so can't say yet).

Here is a link that might be useful: my blog


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