African kale

Our celebration of multi-cultural vegetables starts with African kale.  

Why is this different to our usual kale? It's a perennial, and therefore the perfect 'cut and come again' plant, providing healthy greenery throughout the seasons, year on year. African kale grows like a walking stick cabbage into a large plant.

There are two main types: Chomolia from Zimbabwe has a shorter growing season and will flower in the UK, producing seed. Covo will not produce seed in the UK, but is very easily propagated by taking cuttings from side shoots.
How to grow
African kale needs to be grown on fairly free draining soil with good soil fertility – it should be manured beforehand.

  • For chomolia, sow seeds into modules or trays in May, then transplant in June/July. Plants should be spaced at 60-70cm/24-28in both between and within rows.
  • Covo can only be grown from cuttings. July/August is a good time to do this. Break small side shoots from a mature plant (5-10cm/2-4in is ideal.) Trim the stems back to a node, and remove any excess leaves so that there are 2 – 3 small leaves remaining. Five cuttings will fit in a 15cm/6in pot full of cutting compost (or leaf mould mixed with sand.) Keep in a warm place, ideally with bottom heat, and once rooted, transfer the cuttings to individual pots.
  • Continue to grow on and transplant to the final position in early spring.
  • Plants will eventually reach a large size so can be spaced 1m/3ft apart. Once established, the plant will grow as a perennial bush so that leaves can be harvested whenever required.

As with all brassicas, guard from pigeons and cabbage aphids.

See here for the full How to Grow information. 

How to eat
Leaves of both chomolia and covo can be cut when required, and will store for a few days under cool conditions.  Use in any recipe which involves kale – from stir fry to soups, salads and smoothies. In Africa the leaves are commonly cooked in a sauce with peanut butter, and eaten with a cornmeal porridge known as ‘sadza’.

For a full list of multicultural vegetables see here. They all come from our innovative Sowing New Seeds and Growing From Your Roots projects, when Garden Organic worked with allotment holders of Indian, South American, East Asian, Afro Caribbean and African extraction.