How to grow sea kale

Our easy to follow, practical guide has all the information you need to grow and force tasty sea kale.

Do it:

All year round

Takes just:

15 minutes

At its best:

Mar, Apr, May

Sea kale (Crambe maritima) loves the British weather, is easy to grow and tastes delicious. It's also virtually impossible to buy in grocery shops – and illegal to forage in the wild in many places. This means that growing your own is the best way to enjoy it.

Read about kale (Cavolo nero).

It's a very attractive plant, with large, silvery leaves, which makes an elegant addition to veg plots and allotments and could easily be incorporated into an ornamental bed. You can eat the very young leaves of sea kale raw or steamed, but the forced stems are best - they taste like asaparagus. The flowers have a wonderful honey fragrance and can be used to flavour meat and fish dishes.

Don't start harvesting until the second year at the earliest. After that, your plant should crop for about 10 years. Here's how to grow it.

You will need

  • Sea kale thongs
  • Trays or pots
  • Compost
  • Black buckets

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Sea kale 'thongs' are root cuttings. Soak them in tepid water for an hour or two if they look very dry. Plant in compost in early spring, covering with a layer of compost 2cm deep. Keep the compost just moist and grow on the cuttings into young plants, protecting them from mice, slugs and snails.

In May, plant out the young plants, 60cm apart, in well-drained, weed-free soil, ideally in a sunny spot. Firm the soil well. Protect the young plants from hungry slugs and snails.

Avoid harvesting for at least one full year, ideally two, keeping the plants well watered and fed. Regular weeding is essential to allow the plants to establish well.

Sea kale (Crambe maritima) loves the British weather, is easy to grow and tastes delicious.

In late winter of the second or third year, cover some plants with black buckets. This will 'force' them, encouraging early shoots to grow taller, more tender and pale in colour. Keep watering the plants.

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How to enjoy sea kale stems

Use the forced stems as you would asparagus. Lightly steam and serve with a little oil, salt and pepper - they make an excellent accompaniment to fish dishes. They are also lovely fried in a very light batter.

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