Unusual Vegetable Plants


Sea Kale – Crambe Maritima.

As it’s common name suggests it is a seaside plant and as such will stand wind and salt air. Very popular in Victorian times it has gone out of favour as it can be very labour intensive to grow well. Commonly called “White Asparagus,” it is sometimes seen on sale and semi mature bare root plants are sold as “Thongs,” or “Crowns,” in the same way as Asparagus plants are sold. Seed is occasionally offered for sale, but again is not popular. As with Asparagus, young plants should not be cut for the first year, or two, to allow the plants to build up a good root system. Sea Kale needs free draining, but at the same time rich soil, with plenty of added horticultural grit, when planting. (Not builders grit as that contains lime.) Left to grow naturally in a border it will produce big, tough, blue, waxy, but decorative leaves and will form a clump as will any other herbaceous plant. However, if the young Spring shoots are blanched, by covering the mature plant in the Autumn in the same way as you might cover Rhubarb, the young shoots will be soft, tender and tasty making an attractive, white, alternative to green Asparagus. After cutting, the plant should be allowed to green up in the same way as Rhubarb should and allowed to grow on to give it strength for the next season. As with Asparagus, plants will be harvestable for many years even though they will produce flowers after about 3 years from seed that should be removed in the bud stage. Another way of producing a harvestable crop is to take off the young side shoots in the Autumn and carefully store them over Winter so that they can be rooted in the spring and planted out to produce many fresh young plants that can be blanched as they grow, before harvesting them. Then with all their energy spent, the young plants can simply be discarded as might a seasonal crop from annual vegetable plants. 

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