What I'm planting for winter: Cavolo Nero

00:35, Feb 13 2013

Six years ago, when I was a single gal, I had a diet so poor that getting scurvy was not beyond the realms of possibility. I lived in a little flat by myself, had basically no responsibilities apart from my job and paying the rent. Most mornings I rolled out of bed way after the alarm had gone off, skipped breakfast and went to work, and my evening meal would often be soup or something that could be put on toast. I went to a bbq once where I loaded up my plate with meat and bread and was hassled by my friends to eat something green. I couldn't really understand why they were giving me gip.

Today, I am sowing seeds of cavolo nero. That's also called black kale or Tuscan kale. Kale; that thing what you put in the juicer to make a ridiculously healthy, something the me of six years ago would have scoffed at and thought preposterous.

In fact, the me of one year ago would have scoffed at cultivating this weird-looking plant, this trendy health kick superfood puritanical no fun plant. But I have been turned.

I hold this book- Riverstone Kitchen: Simple - responsible. How can you resist these photos of gloriously healthy plants? And the blurb describing them as "easy to grow and extremely hardy, it seems to thrive almost year-round making it a real mainstay in the garden - especially through the long, cold winter months when most other fresh greens struggle." I'm sold. Plants that don't need to be mollycoddled, that don't need Mediterranean amounts of sunshine, that look even prettier when edged with frost?

Cavolo nero is a brassica, a member of the same family as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. I'm sowing it now for my winter garden, but also got a head start on the season by buying a punnet of Oakdale Organics seedlings to try out.

So how do you grow it? According to my Yates Vegetable Garden book, it will struggle in really cold areas where the ground freezes, and in waterlogged soil, but otherwise can be treated like any other of its brassica relatives. I'm growing mine in a raised bed with lots of organic matter - compost, blood and bone, and seaweed, and giving lots of room to move - seedlings are going in with 50cm space around them in which to stretch their nobbly leaves. I can imagine slugs and snails having a field day, so I'll be resuming my nightly recces with a torch and bucket of salty water to dispatch them to the great lettuce patch in the sky.


The only thing I need to find out now is what to do with it come winter when it's time to eat it. Any ideas?


Have you grown cavolo nero? Any plants now gracing your garden that your younger self would have sneered at?

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Picture from Riverstone Kitchen: Simple.