Growing Sea Kale-a Perennial Cabbage and Broccoli in One

Sea kale sprout

I am still undecided about sea kale, it’s such a small producer. Sea Kale is a takes care of itself kind of perennial, It’s nice to not have to do anything with a plant and still get food out of it but for the small amount of sustenance sea kale provides it seems to hog a permanent spot in the garden.

Mature sea kale plant

I have read a lot about forcing sea kale by placing a pot or “forcing jar” over top to get long shoots but I have not tried this yet, I left my sea kale alone and what it grows into is a kind of silvery blue loose leaf cabbage. Mid spring sea kale flowers up a broccoli like bud just around the same time as sprouting broccoli. If you don’t clip and eat them as florettes , Sea kale buds burst into white flowers. I did allow a few sea kales to go to seed mostly just out of curiosity but I think I see where sea kale gets its name, the large fan shaped spread of seed heads floats above the garden like something you would expect to find in the bottom of the ocean.

Sea kale makes broccoli like flower buds

Once you get sea kale through its first year it is a perennial that will grow back from the roots and I have noticed a few sea kales popping up in unexpected places but I can’t imagine this fickle plant could possible become invasive? The seeds are large and heavy not exactly easy for the wind to distribute. This has been a funny perennial for me I have been trying to get it established for several years, the seeds do not germinate at any great rate and you really do need to get them out early in the spring, any of my fall plantings did not make it through the winter.

Sea kale flowers

Sea kale florettes taste extremely similar to broccoli the texture is more limp but the flavor is virtually identical. The leaves of sea kale taste similar to standard green cabbage with a bit more bitterness and less sharp cripsness. Once you start handling and washing sea kale leaves their almost powder coasted silver/aqua/grey coating marks up and washes off. Both the florettes and leaves lose their intriguing colour once cooked, they turn a standard primary green.

Sea kale gone to seed

I got about a hand full of florettes of each of my four established sea kale plants and only a few leaves, I want to experiment with cutting the whole plant back once I have a few more sea kales to work with. As apprehensive as I may be about growing sea kale as a small space edible for now I am letting it be and we’ll see what happens in the next few years.

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