Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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This Year's Kale Varieties

Baby Kales 
This is my first year planting kale however did have one variety (red russian) in the garden when I moved into the house last summer and it seemed to grow well. The previous owners of the house did not thin out the rows so they were pretty tightly packed. I'll be giving them much more room to grow. Kale is one of the chickens favorite treats and I eat a lot of it too so it will be nice when the kale is big enough to harvest so that will be one less thing for me to purchase at the grocery.

I love having different varieties and who knew there were so many varieties of kale to choose from and so many names for the same variety. There are only a few that I've seen at the grocery store (dinosaur, red russian and curly). Baker Creek, where I got most of my seeds from this year, has 9 different varieties to choose from while Territorial Seed had 16! I narrowed my selections for this year down to 6. One of the seed packets I received was a "Wild Garden Mix" which I originally thought was a single variety but as the starts grew I realized it was actually a mix of three varieties. The varieties are not listed on the seed packet but I think I've figured out what they are (blue curled, dinosaur and red russian).
  1. Premier (Early Hanover) - This is a newer variety I received from Mike the Gardener's seeds of the month club. It has large, smooth, dark green leaves up to a foot long and grows 12-15" tall and 12" wide. This variety is cold hardy. 55-65 days to maturity. 
  2. Vates Blue Curled -  I got these seeds on sale at the end of last season from Seattle Seed Co. The blue-green leaves are curly and more rigid than other varieties and grows to 15" tall and up to 24" wide. Best used as a garnish or in soups and stir fries. 50-60 days to maturity.
  3. Tronchuda (Portuguese & Sea Kale) - This variety came from Baker Creek which I found on sale at a local nursery for 50% off. This variety is more heat tolerant than other varieties and can also take a freeze. The leaves are very large (up to 24"), flat and round, similar to collards but with white veins. This variety tastes more like cabbage and was previously called Tronchuda Cabbage, a non-heading cabbage variety. Grows 12-24" tall and 24-36" wide. 50-60 days to maturity.
  4. Scarlet - I received this variety through a local seed exchange but Baker Creek was the original source for the seeds. This is probably the most beautiful of the kales. The tightly curled leaves are dark green/purple. It grows 24-36" tall and 24" wide. 60 days to maturity.
  5. Red Russian (Siberian & Ragged Jack) - This one came from the Wild Garden Mix from Seattle Seed Co. This variety is cold and heat hardy with tender oak looking blue-green leaves with purple veins. It grows 2-3' tall and 12" wide. 50-60 days to maturity.
  6. Dinosaur (Lacinato & Tuscan) - This is one of the most common varieties and is the other variety I chose to plant from the Wild Garden Mix from Seattle Seed Co. The rigid dark blue-green blistered/bumpy leaves are long and narrow and curl in at the sides. It is cold and heat hardy and grows to 2' tall and 2' wide. 60 days to maturity.
I started the Premier, Vates Blue Curled and Wild Garden varieties in early March and transplanted them in the garden a little over one month later. The Tronchuda and Scarlet was started in early March and will be ready for the garden in another couple of weeks. I've decided to put 4 of each variety in the garden so should have a steady supply of kale soon for salads, soups, stir fries, smoothies and chicken treats.

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