Tag Archives: Perennial Kales

Unusual October veg

A few unusual vegetables this October from the Edible Garden and House:
1. I’ve been trialling around 20 different chicories this year from seed from the German seed bank IPK Gatersleben. This is one of the best producers, Sugar Loaf (Accession CICH 350) which ended up in yesterday’s Basella and Chicory pizza! I remember years ago on a work meeting in Venice enjoying a chicory pizza.

2. Gunnera tinctoria is the representative for South America in my book Around the World in 80 plants. Sadly, it is not very hardy and mine grows in a large pot half submerged in my small pond and is moved into the cellar for the winter where it goes to sleep for most of the winter. The edible leaf petioles don’t reach the size of plants grown outside and are therefore a bit more fibrous. Their crunchy texture and sweet-sour taste was nevertheless a good addition to a mixed salad earlier in the week.  
3. This summer was the first time I’d grown Okinawan spinach (Gynura bicolor). I cut it down earlier this week and used the leaves in the mixed salad together with the Gunnera. It’s the variety with red undersides to the leaves. Thanks to my friend Kim Jacobsen who leads KVANNs Stueplantelaug (Norwegian Seed Savers’ (Edible) House Plant guild) for sending me cuttings. It looks and tastes good!

4. I also grow Basella (Ceylon spinach) inside and it always produces berries and seeds for the following year and for sharing. This was used with the chicory (above) in the pizza.

5. Autumn is also the time that the perennial kales resprout and provide an abundance of greens. Here’s a video of the perennial kales in the Edible Garden this week. I have another similar sized plot at the community garden.

6. One of my favourite wild edibles is common sow thistle / haredylle (Sonchus oleraceus), although I deliberately cultivate it. However, apart from posts by myself, this is a plant that isn’t mentioned in Norwegian foraging groups in Norway. Is this because it needs some preparation in order that it’s merits can be properly understood, the bitterness maybe putting people off at first taste? This is a plant I devote several pages to in my book Around the World in 80 Plants and I document how this is an important wild edible worldwide. My introduction to its merits was in the book Native Edible Plants of New Zealand by Andrew Crowe and on a work trip to that country in the early 2000s I could see for myself how important this plant is for the Maori people with over 1/3 of all the vegetable stalls selling this plant. Known as puha to the Maori, it has become a so-called cryptocrop* of the Maori vegetable gardens, an annual “weed” introduced by the Europeans with a similar taste to the traditional perennial endemic sea-cliff inhabiting puha (Sonchus kirkii). Annual puha is encouraged in between the main crops as it has a cash value and increases the yield of the land. It has also been suggested that the large consumption of annual puha by the Maori (hardly used by people of European descent) protects them against some forms of cancer. I was so inspired by the story of how a plant much hated worldwide could at the same time be a superfood appreciated by the Maori and all the other peoples around the world who are in the know, that I introduced it to my garden and it is now become my most important vegetable from late July to the first frosts! From it becoming a burden to weed out this coloniser of open soil, I now weed this “weed” leaving only a few plants to grow strong on the edges of my vegetable beds….and hate is turned to love! Much more in my book!
*Crytocrops: a distinction has been made between cryptocrops
from weeds by Diego Rivera et al. in a 2006 paper: “This led us to distinguish cryptocrops from weeds. Both are not cultivated plants living in crop fields and competing with the main crop. The fundamental distinction is the intensity of gathering by man”.
7.  I have a special fascination for vegetables that are superstars in one part of the world but hardly known in their area of origin and one of those is garland chrysanthemum or crown daisy (Glebionis coronaria, early known as Chrysanthemum coronarium). This is a wild and extremely common flower of early spring in Mediterranean countries, often growing in large quantities, and commonly available in supermarkets in Japan where it’s known as shungiku. See more on this blog post Shungiku soba (a standard offering in soba restaurants in Japan): https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=22710
There is a legend that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy from China. In an article “Fra Malta til Japan og tilbake” (From Malta to Japan and back again) that I wrote 15 years ago for a Norwegian herbal magazine Grobladet in 2006, I suggested that Mr. Polo gave chopsuey greens in return (see and download the article here https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=3493).
When I first wrote about shungiku in 2006, I could only find one reference of its use in the Mediterranean for food. Since then, there have been carried out numerous ethnobotanical studies throughout the Mediterranean and a quick search carried out now revealed that this plant has been used traditionally throughout the area, although by no means a common wild edible:
In Turkey: numerous studies (leaves, young shoots and stems are used) have recorded this plant used as summarized in a paper from 2019 by İsmail Şenkardeş and others: “An Ethnobotanical Analysis on Wild Edible Plants of the Turkish Asteraceae Taxa”
In addition, it is recorded in two studies in Spain, in Morocco, Palestine and in Sicily it was both cooked and used in salads.
This plant fits nicely into my diversity cooking as it produces new shoots in smaller amounts throughout the summer from July to the first frosts and they are usable even after the plant has flowered and produced seed.
There are many cultivars with different flower colour, double and single and serrated and whole-leaved forms. I’ve grown some 10-15 different cultivars this summer, the seed from the collections at IPK Gatersleben in Germany.

More perennial kales

The perennial kales overwintered well the last two winters and are looking good. I showed a video of one I got from Walsall Allotments in Birmingham, UK a few years ago here last week: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=25787
The first below is one of Chris Homanics’ perennial crosses (I lost track of which cross this is). It has large dark glossy leaves (a bit reminiscent of Glazed collards) and hasn’t flowered, concentrating instead its energy into producing leaves! This is a keeper.
This is followed by non-flowering offspring of  my Daubenton cross with Purple Sprouting Broccoli in 2012 and still alive https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=1632. These have inherited the daubenton genes but one is taller and has bigger leaves. I’m still playing with the offspring on the broccoli side, but they are less perennial but some have survived for 5 years but the broccolis are smaller than the father, but still useful.
Finally is a current picture of Daubenton variegated.
AND Diamond back moth (kålmøll) is now here in large numbers (over 100) and will have almost no impact on these kales, nor will other pests!

1. Homanics Norway perennial kale

2. Daubenton like (from Daubenton x Late Purple Broccoli cross)

3. Daubenton variegated 


Sustainable kales

I’m more and more convinced that perennial kales are the way forward. After two mild winters I’ve had good overwintering of most varieties except Tree Collards from California.
The film below shows a kale which I call “Walsall Allotments” which I found growing at Walsall Allotments in Birmingham (see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=2868) on the allotment of a Kenyan man. I never managed to find out where he got these kale from, but Kenya is the only country was the only country where perennial kales were still grown commercially at the time I was researching my book. At the end of the video we see another perennial Brassicaceae, sea kale (strandkål) Crambe maritima. Note that the variety Lily White flowers significantly earlier than my other varieties.

A few days ago the plague of Brassica growers, diamond back moth (kålmøll) arrived in significant numbers here and I see on various FB groups that folk are using floating mulch and enviromesh to protect their crops. I had done the same for years, but decided that I wanted to grow vegetables without non-sustainable oil based products like Agryl fleece which is no doubt also a major source of plastic fibres in nature. Agryl is also used to bring on annual crops earlier. However, there is an alternative plastic free and sustainable alternative using perennials. As you can see, my kales having grown for two and a half months are large and have been providing kale leaves since early spring. Their main growth period is now over but will be resumed in autumn. Although diamond back moths and other butterflies lay their eggs on these kales damage isn’t significant. Therefore I am totally unworried by this invasion of moths!
Of course there are problems with perennial kales too, such as cold hardiness, deer and woodpigeons (rådyr / ringduer) in the winter and lack of diversity, but breeding projects by amateurs such as Chris Homanics in Oregon are changing all that!

The winter’s first salad shoot salad

The first winter shoots were harvested from the cellar today. It is almost totally dark in the cellar and currently about +6C. The blanched shoots in the picture are (from L to R) dandelions (løvetann), perennial kales (flerårige kål) and catalogna chicory (sikkori). Otherwise you can see Korean celery (Dystaenia takesimana), perennial celery / fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), turnip (nepe) , carrot (gulrot)  and lemon balm (sitronmelisse).
The salad was decorated with Begonia flowers from the living room!

Winter ready perennial kales

This week I’ve spent a lot of time preparing various less hardy plants for winter, laying down blackberry canes and covering with leaves and jute sacking to hold the leaves in place and similarly with sea kale which is marginally hardy here.
Even though it was under -5C it was dry and quite pleasant to work outside raking leaves from the wild part of the garden.
I was a bit late this year, the cold spell with 10 days below 0C every day means that there’s already 10cm or so frozen solid in parts of the garden, so crossing fingers that I wasn’t too late.
Here’s part of my collection of perennial kales which are marginal here even with the roots protected. In my world, kales are of the least hardy vegetables :)

The canes of my 30 year old blackberry are almost as long as the south facing wall of my house:

…and my 35 year old seakale bed, covered as maybe 1 in 10 winters they wouldn’t survive!



Himalayan Balsam and Albatrellus ovinus pizza

Tonight’s veggie pizza (with part of the bread dough as I’m also baking bread this evening) had some unusual for me ingredients: perennial kales, a mix of oriental brassicas (pak choy, mizuna, mustard greens etc.), various spring onions (all hacked out of the frozen soil) with garlic, chili, oregano, dried fungi – Albatrellus ovinus (fåresopp in Norwegian) and topped with dried seed of highly invasive himalayan balsam (kjempespringfrø), the seeds of which are quite attractive (see the picture)

Diamondbacks in their thousands

Since I first blogged about an invasion of diamondback moths (kålmøll) two days ago, reports have been coming in across Scandinavia of the enormity of this invasion, even reaching the farthest north parts of the Norwegian mainland in Finnmark, the arctic city of Tromsø and Northern Sweden. In some places, it’s been too cold to start planting out vegetables!
There were more than a thousand moths in my garden yesterday and they were observed swarming over my perennial kales (Brassica oleracea), sea kale (Crambe maritima) and common wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris), none of which are likely to be severely affected.

Falafels and cellar veggie wholegrain pizza!

Great to be home again to nutritious vegetarian food! Presenting this week’s two dishes, each lasting two days: dried broad bean falafels (with golpar spice) and a mixed cellar veggie wholegrain sourdough pizza with masses of forced dandelions and perennial kale shoots!

The first garden forage of the year!

After 3-4 weeks of snow cover,  the weather this week changed dramatically and we had the second warmest February day over the last 100 years with over 10C! Together with rain and wind, almost all of what was close to 50 cm of snow has disappeared. For plants, this has been a very mild winter and the ground has hardly been frozen. As soon as the snow had disappeared I could dig the soil. Some edibles such as nettles and chickweed haven’t been killed by frost. Here are some pictures of (apart from the snowdrops) edibles in the garden today.