Traffic Stopping Kale

Redbor kale

From this title, “Traffic Stopping Kale,” you may be imagining a major traffic incident in Los Angeles or Santa Barbara where a truck loaded with kale turned over on the interstate. Then tons of drivers hit their brakes and start grazing right off of the roadway. No, that is not what I am implying at all.

Although the idea of a kale wreck causing tons of health food loving and fad craving masses to mob the scene may be slightly humorous (no one was hurt during this visual introduction), that is not what I meant at all. I am talking about kale literally stopping traffic, be it by automobile, foot, or bike. The particular kale that will cause disruption in others’ daily routine is the Redbor kale. In case you have not seen it, Redbor kale (Brassica oleracea ‘Redbor’) is a 3-4 foot tale kale with deep purple, crinkly-edged leaves. This plant is such a striking presence in the garden that as it matures, it takes on the size of a small shrub. Not only is it beautiful and striking but yes, the leaves are completely edible. Add Redbor kale along a sunny sidewalk, and watch the Lululemon-clad hordes congregate in salivating awe.

Kale Redbor La

The specifics on growing Redbor kale are: it can be grown from seed or plugs, plant in late spring in a sunny, well-drained garden bed, it is ready to harvest from plugs in about 55 days, from seed it would be ready to harvest in 75 days. Redbor kale leaves can be harvested and eaten while they are young so a few plants in your garden will provide a summer full of purplish, healthy kale smoothies. In case you do not get around to harvesting all of the leaves, the older leaves will soften if left until a light autumn frost. Some of the plant sources cite that plants will come back if covered and mulched over the winter. We are going to test this notion at our USDA zone 6a gardens at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens this winter.

The leaves and stems are beautiful and sturdy so another great use is in floral arrangements. If you are having a dinner party, make a Redbor kale centerpiece so if your guests are still hungry, they can nibble on the decoration.

Add Brassica oleracea ‘Redbor’ to your list of must grow plants. I know you will love the appearance, you will have passers-by stopping to ask about the plant, and if you have kids, Redbor kale chips are the best snack food. Especially if you throw out all of the other snack food and leave kale chips laying on the kitchen table. Not that we would do that.

– Rodney

Images: Annie’s Annuals, LSU Ag Center

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.

1 Comment

  1. Emma on November 17, 2014 at 5:14 am

    So interesting kale! I haven’t seen such a kale. It looks more like a flower. It is so beautiful. I want to buy to plant in my garden. Thanks for sharing!