Kale’s popularity has been attributed to its health benefits as well as its versatility in the kitchen. It can be used in salads, sautéed with olive oil and garlic to serve as a side dish, baked, or added to soups, stews and casseroles for extra flavour and nutrients.
There are many different varieties of this vegetable with different tastes and textures.
The most common types of kale
If you’re buying kale from the supermarket, there are two common types of kale that you’ll come across:
- Curly green kale has long, curly leaves and a slightly bitter taste.
- Tuscan kale has slightly flatter, more tender leaves and tastes great cooked or in salads.
However, if you’re growing your own kale at home, there are many more options to choose from, as we explore below.
Siberian kale is a hardy variety that can be grown in cold climates. It has a milder and slightly sweeter flavour than other varieties.
Siberian kale produces more side shoots than many other kinds of kale, so is good if you want a large harvest.
Siberian Kale also does well when grown in containers; however, if you grow Siberian Kale from seedlings rather than seeds then make sure that they’re not sitting too deep in soil or else they won’t germinate properly.
Red Russian Kale
Red Russian is a popular, hardy and frost-tolerant variety of kale, boasting a mild flavor that makes it ideal for winter salads.
It grows fast and the young leaves can be eaten in salads while the older leaves are best cooked.
Redbor is a cross between red Russian and Siberian, making it a very cold hardy kale variety.
This hybrid variety has 2-foot plants with curly, maroon-red or purple leaves.
And although it’s a popular variety because of its colour, it also has a mild cabbage-like taste that makes it a great addition to salads or soups.
Dwarf Siberian Kale
The Dwarf Siberian kale plant grows to 30 to 40cm in height, with slightly frilled leaves that are very hardy and prolific.
The plants are compact, so they’re perfect for growing in small spaces.
Early Hanover Kale
Early Hanover Kale is a variety of kale that is also known as “Premier.” It is an extra early Siberian variety with large, smooth leaves and a strong flavour.
It can be used in salads when young but will become too tough to eat raw if allowed to grow past its prime.
Green Cossack Kale
Green Cossack Kale is a curly kale variety with a high yield.
This variety has a sweet flavour, which makes it ideal for salads, soups, and even smoothies. It handles multiple harvests well and is hardy enough to withstand winter frosts and snow.
Half Tall Scotch Kale (Borecole)
Half Tall Scotch Kale is a variety of kale that has very tightly curled dark blue/green leaves.
It handles multiple harvests and is easy to grow, so it’s perfect for beginners who want to try growing their own kale.
Dwarf Blue Curled Kale
This is one of many similar varieties including Dwarf Blue Scotch, Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch, and Blue Curled Scotch.
It grows up to 35cm tall and has curled blue/green leaves. This variety is slow bolting, making it easier to grow at home.
It’s great raw or cooked, so you can use it in salads, soups, or any number of other dishes.
Squire Kale is a short-stemmed variety of kale that produces curly tender leaves. It has a pleasant sweet taste.
Squire Kale is heat-tolerant, slow to bolt, and can be harvested in 60 – 70 days.
Dwarf Green Kale
Dwarf Green Kale is a compact variety of kale with tightly curled leaves.
It grows to only 30-45cm and has deep, yellowish-green, wrinkled, leaves.
It is also known as ‘Jamaica’, ‘Bloomsdale’, and ‘Dwarf Curled Scotch’ and was originally known as ‘Dwarf Curlies’.
Bear Necessities Kale
Bear Necessities Kale is an heirloom variety that’s similar to Red Russian Kale, but with blue-green serrated leaves and a mild mustard flavour.
This variety is best in cooler climates and has good frost tolerance.
Chou Moellier Kale
This is a rare heirloom kale variety that produces large green leaves. It has a very thick and sturdy central trunk or stem that can grow up to 2m tall.
The plant produces an abundance of leaves, which are good raw in salads or cooked. Also called Tree Kale, Giant Tree Kale, Chou Moellier Kale is known for its high yields.
Black Toscana Kale
Black Toscana is a cross between traditional Tuscan kale and black kale. It has been bred to have the milder flavour of the Tuscan variety, but with the dark colouring of its black parent.
Also known as Cavolo Nero, it is an Italian heirloom variety of kale that has long dark grey/green leaves. It grows to 60 – 90cm tall and is late-maturing. This variety is popular in Italian cuisine.
Also known as Lacinato or Dinosaur Kale, Tuscan Kale has a mild flavour, which makes it ideal for both raw and cooked dishes. It’s tender, sweet and has a delicate taste that will complement any meal.
Tuscan Kale can be harvested as baby leaves around the 7-week mark or left to grow to maturity.
Baby Tuscan Kale
Baby Tuscan kale has a sweet flavour and has tender dark green leaves that are perfect for raw applications such as salads.
It’s quite hardy and is easy to grow. This variety is frost-tolerant so you can grow it during winter if you live in a cooler climate.
Baby Tuscan is probably one of the easier varieties of kale to harvest—the leaves are small enough that they come off easily without damaging other leaves or flowers on the plant.
Ivory Garden Kale
Ivory Garden Kale is a unique variety of kale with a white centre and green outer leaves. This, combined with its frilled leaf edges, make it one of the most attractive varieties available.
This kale can be eaten raw or cooked and will grow to 30cm.
Scarlet Kale is a variety of kale with tightly curled leaves that are dark green to red in colour, with red stems and veins.
It has good cold tolerance and grows to around 60cm in height. Harvest time is 55-65 days after planting.
Halbhoher Gruner Kale
This curly kale variety has vibrant light green leaves that are finely curled and have a mild flavour. This makes it perfect for adding to salads, soups, and stews.
Chinese kale, also known as Gai Lan, Kai-Lan, or Chinese broccoli.
It is a member of the Brassica family, has dark green leaves and purple stems and grows to a height of 60cm.
Chinese kale can be used in stir-fries, soups or steamed like spinach. The leaves have a more bitter flavour than other kales which makes them ideal for use in Asian cooking.
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Walking Stick Kale
Walking stick kale is a rare type of kale that has been cultivated for over 4000 years.
This variety is best known for its long, sturdy stalks that generally grow to 2 metres in height but can reach up to 6 metres in some conditions.
Traditionally, the stems were cut and dried then varnished to make walking sticks.
It’s cold- and frost-tolerant and takes about 60 days from seed to harvest.
Red Bore F1 Kale
Red Bore F1 Kale is a unique variety of curly kale that has frilly deep purple leaves.
The plant is mild in taste and can be used for decorative or edible purposes.
What you should take away from this is that there are so many different types of kale being grown in Australia. It’s not just the same old curly green one you see at the supermarket!
If you want to grow your own kale then there is a variety for every season, climate and even size garden.