Saturday, 11 May 2013

out of the darkness...

In one of the gardens that I look after I have inherited a patch of sea kale. It's an attractive plant with bluey grey leaves, whose natural habitat is a shingle beach - it was famously much beloved by the filmaker Derek Jarman who allowed it to flourish in his iconic garden in Dungeness. But my plants are well past their prime, so to help me decide whether to rip out/renovate/replant, I thought I would apply the taste test.  It's on the list of edible perennials, but it has always struck me as being in the 'I'd have to be desperate' section.  The leaves are leathery, the stalks are unappealingly stringy and the whole thing has a slightly sulphurous hint of overboiled cabbage.

Had a bit of a read up and discovered that the advice is to force the plants by covering over the crowns and excluding light. So I rustled up a couple of terracotta rhubarb forcing pots from the shed and put them over the plants a few months ago, just as the crowns were beginning to show signs of stirring.

forcing pots

After a whole lot of not much happening at the start, they have now started to produce an abundance of primrose yellow stems, topped with delicate frills of pale green leaves.

unforced in the foreground - forced in the background

And guess what?


The flavour is somewhere between asparagus and garden peas.

forced sea kale and purple sprouting broccoli

I gave them a quick steam with the last pick of the purple sprouting broccoli, and served them with butter and black pepper, but they're tender enough to eat raw in a salad if you want to.


I've decided they're definitely worth their place in the garden, and have just sown a packet of seed so I can establish a new patch of vigorous young plants. Looking forward to a few more picks before I whip the pots off and let the light shine in for the rest of the year.


  1. yay! i had them raw with my dinner - they were really nice, quite a delicate flavour and nice and fresh tasting.x

  2. Glad you liked them - you are my go to vegan taste tester x

  3. Those forcing pots are beautiful. I love kale, but I haven't been able toget my hands on any for ages. There's not a leaf to be had at our vegie shop. Time to grow my own, I know.

  4. The pots are great aren't they - you could achieve the same effect with a plastic bucket weighted down with a brick, but it wouldn't be nearly as cute! I always thought forcing would be not worth the bother, but now I am converted - it's like a completely different vegetable.

  5. Hmm I have a client with a forcing pot and have never used it perhaps I should try it on some celery (we have no sea kale here). They look delicious