These Plants are Made for Walking

comments (0) October 28th, 2011

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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The large cabbage-like leaves of the Walking Stick kale are edible.
The stem of the Walking Stick kale needs to dry for a full year before being put to use.
Tall walking sticks from little kale plants grow.
The large cabbage-like leaves of the Walking Stick kale are edible.Click To Enlarge

The large cabbage-like leaves of the Walking Stick kale are edible.

Photo: John Pendleton

It was March when I started the seeds of Brassica oleracea longata Walking Stick kale in my basement. This plant, also known as Jersey Kale, came with tall expectations. I'd heard these vegetables could grow up to 7 feet in one season and wrote here about transplanting the kale to my garden.

This beautiful plant lived up to its billing in every way except one: it didn’t reach its towering potential. Instead of growing to 7 feet, it topped out at about 4 ½ feet.

I’m going to blame its stunted growth on the weather. After all, Denver’s weather isn’t the same as the climate on the Channel Islands of Jersey where this plant can grow to 18 feet tall.

However, it certainly was fun to watch the small transplant grow its sturdy stem and large cabbage-like leaves. It took most of the summer, but by August it did look like I had a miniature palm tree growing right off the patio.

Even though that garden bed wasn’t an ideal spot for it, planting it close to the container garden meant it was sure to get watered.

When the meteorologists predicted subfreezing temperatures for this week, the kale was pulled up by its roots and hung up in the basement to dry. The stem needs a full year before it can be trimmed and used as a real walking stick.

I think the root ball is going to make a lovely handle.

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posted in: kale, walking stick kale, Jersey kale, Brassica oleracea longata