Ornamental chard and wild garden kale

Window box in commercial building, Charleston, SC, with lovely red-stemmed chard as ornament, April 5.  (I did notice that in the next box over the chard leaves were entirely missing.)

Attractive and delicious leafy greens turn up all over.  I might have overwintered the hardy kale I harvested yesterday in a flower bed, except that my resident groundhogs and rabbits would have scarfed the lot.  Behind my garden fence, it was safe.

This is the Wild Garden Kale mix developed by Gathering Together Farm in Oregon and sold by a number of catalogs (I got mine from Bountiful Gardens).  The seed mix produces a variety of Siberian kales (Brassica napus) that are best planted in late summer and harvested in fall or left to winter over.  My plants were protected by nothing but leaf mulch; in a harsher winter they might have appreciated a row cover.  They grew vigorously through our warm March and are now starting to make flower buds (edible and yummy, by the way) so I thought it was time to bring some in for cooking.

The plants fell into three basic categories: a lacy-leafed type that could be grown as “ornamental kale”; a flat-leafed type not too different from collards; and one halfway between the two, like a Red Russian kale.

It’s a great time of year to prepare kale – no bugs!  I washed the leaves carefully, but never a caterpillar nor an egg nor a chewing insect did I see.

The stems are tough, so I stripped the leaves off, chopped them, steamed them until limp, and then finished them the way we usually cook kale.

Saute onions in olive oil and butter until golden, add the steamed kale, add some balsamic and red wine vinegar and any other seasonings you want, stir and cook for another five minutes or so.  Optional: add a protein element, in this case canned chickpeas (sometimes I use sausage or bacon).  Then finish it off with some chopped pecans and dried cranberries.  Yum.

The kale came out tender but still chewy, with plenty of its own flavor enhanced by the others in the dish.  I have a little more saved in the freezer, but next year I’ll grow lots so we can have it for the winter.

5 Comments on “Ornamental chard and wild garden kale

  1. Erica, This recipe sounds great. I hope I can find it again when I need it.


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