Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sea Kale

I'm looking up info again on this veggie.  I did a little research on it before i got the seeds, but i forgot and didn't write anything down.
So i'm going to do some searches and leave my notes here. It might be useful for others and i will definitely need it myself.
I'll try and include source links, since i have never grown it myself any info i find will be based on what someone else said.

Sea Kale:

Crambe maritima

Where to buy:
Bountiful Gardens
Fedco  Seeds

More commonly available in UK and surrounding countries and grows wild in places.
The two above  links are the only US seed sources i have found.  I did not include non-US sources because they only seem to be uncommon over here.

Propagates by seed or root cuttings (called thongs). Only available by seed in US
Cultivar- "Lily White"

Root ball divisions of established plants is another way to increase

When to plant:
Direct sow in fall or spring (spring- after last frost)

Hardiness- USDA Zone 5a - 9b
Height- About 3'
Soil pH- neutral to alkaline
Full sun
Prevent from drying out (seaside plant, probably not very drought tolerant)
Benefits from applications of rock salt.
Spring vegetable.
Tastes much like asparagus.
Can be ornamental with its striking blueish leaves.
Flowers are not beautiful (cabbage-like) but are strongly scented. Scent is described to be like honey and compared to brugmansia.
Dried seed clusters can also be ornamental according to taste in decor.

The seeds are pea-like and covered in a corky jacket which must be nicked before planting. The seed coat allows the seeds to float around in seawater for quite some time (years even!) so be sure to prepare the seeds properly or they can take forever to germinate.
Once germinated and growing they need to be set in their permanent place.  Then its at least one year before they can produce edible parts. Up to three years according to some sources. Plants can live for many years,,  i read anywhere from 8-20+.

Harvesting- some sources say that the newest shoots can be eaten, there was nothing  said about these being blanched shoots or if they were the first growth in the spring as they naturally wake up. I guess this is something i'll figure out myself.  I think it means that the shoots can be uncovered and harvested from their bed of winter mulch if a more dedicated blanching method was not used.

Methods of blanching:
The large parts are inedible unless blanched. It seems that almost any large container can be used for this as long as they are opaque. Based on descriptions it seems that a 5 gallon bucket will do for a cover. I think white ones will let in too much light. They do come in darker colors, i have seen dark green ones that would likely work best.  Some instructions say to hill up any fallen leaves around the plants then cover all with the bucket and put bricks on the bucket to hold things steady.  Check them now and then.

They can also be lifted and taken inside to be forced like is commonly done across the pond with rhubarb.  In my blogroll is "Mal's Allotment" and she posted about this during springtime.

Diseases and other things:

I guess they can get club root like their brassica kin.  So if you have issues with club root, Sea Kale may not do well for you.  I read that the cabbage butterfly will lay  eggs on them, but damage is often minimal. I'm sure woodchucks and birds will nibble them and i have learned that woodchucks all have different preferences, so who knows if there will be a lot of damage or not.

How to eat:

Shoots can be steamed, broiled, grilled and tempura fried. I'm sure the ways are endless, but i like simplicity so i don't plan to need many recipes.
Give me my salt, pepper and olive oil and maybe some balsamic vinegar and i'm happy enough.




Faith said...

What an interesting plant. God loves variety.

And what a gift to have a plant that will grow in salt! A vegetable that you can put into soil that has been over salted and still have something green to eat, while at the same time having extra long viability of the seeds. These would be a great thing to grow if you can.


icebear said...

The varieties are amazing, its true. God does like to make cool things!

The seeds being waterproof and viable for many years is quite an interesting trait. It almost seems to be a survivalist's plant- only catch is that it takes at least a year from seed to produce food- but then, like asparagus, it will be with you for many years, happily providing each spring.
The only info i couldn't find was the amount of food each plant can provide.I guess the older the plant the more it produces, but i haven't determined its base yield.
The main reason it isn't cultivated or trade is because it does not transport well and the shoots deteriorate quickly after picking, so its not a good market item. Its good to know that it isn't because its an acquired taste :o)
I want to get them started right now, lol

Lexa said...

Thanks for sharing. familiar with Sea Kale at all. And what cool seeds. They come with their own armour. Good luck and keep us up-to-date on your progress.

Pam J. said...

Another "thanks" for telling us about this plant. Wikipedia says this:
"The shoots are served like asparagus: steamed, with either a bechamel sauce or melted butter, salt and pepper." Yummmm.
[3:51 PM thurs in the dc area....another big storm blowing up...hope no more trees fall down. over and we lose power again...]

icebear said...

Hopefully i won't get bored with blogging or decide that too many people are tired of my prattling and i will continue to keep posting. It will take at least 2 years to give the beginning of a full report on this plant from my own perspective.
I like the unusual plants and each time i come across one i think what a shame they don't get more exposure. Not that i have any disdain for the commoner veggies, but i really am fascinated with the less charted territories.


Mmmm, sounds like a plan. Anything that makes a good argument for a bechamel sauce is tops in my book, lol

Its been a summer for wild weather for sure, stay safe!

Mal's Allotment said...

IceB you amaze me with your enthusiasm. Seakale was a Victorian obsession which I admit to never trying. I've never seen it grown either. "Seakale Beet" or "Swiss Chard" is so much easier and doesn't require blanching. But I might yet be encoraged by your example.

The other seaside vegetable from Victorian times is Cardoon. It grows large and also requires binding up to blanch it.