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.