A wonderful vegetable that is indigenous to the sandy maritime coasts of England. It is a highly sought perennial vegetable due to its beauty and multiple uses. Can be very long lived, Eric Toensmier has one that is 12 years old and provides harvests every year.
Sea Kale has spectacular ornamental qualities due to its frilled leaves, dusty blue color, and large bushy flowering stalks. It is a clumping plant that can grow to 3' in diameter or more. It grows about 20" high and up to 4' when it flowers as a mature plant.
Spring Shoots - Cover with a pot to blanch. Imagine a very thick asparagus stalk with a mustardy twang.
Young Leaves - Best prepared in a brine, such as in a kimche or saurkraut fashion. Brined Sea Kale leaves were an essential tool to prevent scurvy for English sailors.
Broccolitas - Small blue flower buds form into a broccolini-like vegetable.
Flowers - Abundant flowers can be picked and put into salads. BEES LOVE THEM!!!
Seed Pods - Like a caper. They have a crunchy-poppy texture due to there foam like anatomy that helps the seeds float on the sea.
Roots - Firm texture but not fiborous. Not exquisite but definitely edible. They are best boiled and mashed with garlic.
Plant thongs with the pointed end down. Make sure the top of the thong is about 1" - 2" inch below soil surface. Plant into permanent beds with GREAT drainage; these plants evolved in sand and pebbles, their full potential is unlocked when the light soil allows them to form massive root systems in short times. They will do fine with mediocre drainage as well. For maximized ornamental qualities and long term planning you can give them a 3' diameter space to fill. For more intensive food production place them in a hilled row at 1' foot spacing (this will allow the canopy to close and limit weed growth.
When weeding, use caution not to cut/bump leaf stems as they are fairly brittle/crisp. Provide plants with ample mulch to protect the roots from rapid temperature changes and bitter cold, they are used to the humid and consistent climate of the sea shore. Gauranteed to grow in Zone 7. I grow them in Zone 6 with no mulch and minimal losses. To ensure success in Zone 4-5 provide plants with ample mulch for protection from winter cold (4"<).
-Wait until the third year to starting blanching the spring shoots. As soon as you see the leaf shoots, cover with a pot so no light gets in. Use a sharp knife to harvest shoots when they are 7"+. You can do this multiple times in the early spring once the plant has matured but take caution to not deplete the plant.
-When using leaves for brined foods then harvest the younger leaves.
-When harvesting flowers go for the bright white ones.
-Harvest broccolitas before flower buds open.
-To use the seed pods, harvest the young ones and pickle them or put them in salads.
-Wait until year 3 to harvest roots for boiling and mashing or pickling (best to leave plants to mature roots and utilize the above ground yields).