It's not what ya' know......It's more about what ya' grow.
If You Think Kale Is ‘So 2010,’ You’re Not Growing the Right Ones
When it comes to kale, the organic farmers at Adaptive Seeds have a few things to teach you — and some versions of the familiar green that may not be so familiar.
By Margaret Roach
March 30, 2022, 5:00 a.m. ET
Yes, Sarah Kleeger knows: Kale is not exactly making headlines these days. Not anymore.
“Kale is so 2010, or whenever,” she was saying the other day by phone, from Sweet Home, Ore., as she walked through her kitchen garden, describing and sampling this green and that, a sort of virtual show-and-tell and tasting.
Lest she be misunderstood, though, she quickly added: “But I’m definitely not bored with kale, and still celebrate it.”
No matter how familiar or even generic kale has become, Ms. Kleeger would not be without it. It is an essential at her home, and among the nearly 600 vegetables, grains, herbs and flowers in the Adaptive Seeds catalog that she founded in 2009 with her partner, Andrew Still.
A depth of kale genetics remains a signature feature of their certified organic farm and seed operation. This year’s availability list includes 14 types — one of which, Kale Coalition, is a diverse gene-pool mix of 17 kales and their crosses.
It has been 15 years since the pair, who were then working on other people’s organic vegetable farms and had the winter off, took a four-month, seed-focused trip to nine Northern European countries. That region’s climate translates well to the one at home, and to other North American areas, so they knew that any seed they acquired would be at least partly adapted to big portions of the country.
“We’re seed nerds, so we took our life savings to Europe to look for seed,” Ms. Kleeger told me when we first met, almost 10 years ago. They also brought along seeds to share.
If they were not already kale nerds, too, when they embarked on what they called their Seed Ambassadors Project, they were when they got back. The trove they returned with — some 800 varieties of vegetables that weren’t commercially available in the United States at the time — included close to 20 kales that weren’t the same-old, same-old supermarket model of the day.
The ambassadors of seed became connoisseurs of kale, and are ever at the ready with advice on how to achieve a year-round harvest and which variety is best suited to which culinary purpose. For not all kales are created equal.
It is just one of various passions for the couple, who likewise have a thing for Northern-adapted tomatoes (they have more than 100 kinds), peppers and beans (snap and dry, fava and runners). Oh, and corn — including flint types for grinding into meal.
“Since we learned how to make pozole out of our homegrown corn, we’ve become even more enamored with corn as one of our favorite crops,” Ms. Kleeger said.
An Ever-Widening Palette of Greens
Lately, Mr. Still and Ms. Kleeger also find themselves with a growing collection of edible ornamentals — or what they call “edimentals” — including amaranth and quinoa, which are as beautiful as they are tasty. And not just for their heads of grain, but also for their leaves.
The catalog features other unusual greens, too, some of which were offering tasty samples on a recent March day.
“From a gardener’s perspective, I have really come to appreciate some of the perennial ones, in particular,” said Ms. Kleeger, naming some names.
No garden, for example, should be without a patch of sorrel (Rumex acetosa). Its lemony foliage is a welcome accent green in spring salads, and even winter ones. (It bolts, then mostly rests in summer heat before producing again in fall.) And it is the mainstay of unforgettable sorrel soup.
Adaptive’s sorrel, like so many of their seeds, has a story: On the Seed Ambassadors trip, Mr. Still and Ms. Kleeger visited a farmers’ market in Transylvania, where an older Hungarian man was selling seed in packets he had fashioned out of newspaper. Their friend, who was acting as a translator, didn’t speak Hungarian, so the sorrel’s provenance before that point is sketchy. Mr. Still and Ms. Kleeger simply called it Transylvanian Sorrel. Back home, it has been growing steadily, spreading in a well-behaved way.
And here’s something even less familiar: What about a perennial green with a cucumber flavor that doubles as a handsome ground cover? Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) — which is great in salads, as its name suggests — checks both boxes.
Sculpit or bladder campion (Silene vulgaris) is a short-lived perennial that adds an herbal flavor hinting at arugula or chicory to salad, risotto or an omelet.
Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) “is halfway between lovage and celery in appearance,” Ms. Kleeger said, “and halfway between an herb and a green in use.” A biennial or short-lived perennial, it tastes like mild parsley.
For celery flavor without the thick stems, ideal for mirepoix or flavoring soups, grow Hollow Pipe of Malines (Apium graveolens), a Belgian heirloom cutting celery.
And while one crop or another is sometimes referred to as “the next kale” — the annual orach or mountain spinach (Atriplex hortensis), for instance — the Adaptive farmers appreciate each one for its individuality and performance, not for the hype. What’s not to love about the pure magenta deliciousness of their Red Flash orach, with its heart-shaped leaves?
Another annual that’s good for salads, the walnut-flavored Doucette d’Alger (Fedia cornucopiae), grows like mache, but faster and larger. And there’s a bonus, Ms. Kleeger pointed out: It covers itself in purple flowers that pollinators like.
Kale Through All the Seasons
Kale is a biennial whose sweetness is brought out by cold weather, and it will overwinter in many places. Seed shoppers may see one of two Brassica species listed in Latin beneath a variety’s description.
Those classified as Brassica oleracea, or European kale, are probably the most familiar, but there are distinctive varieties among them. The English heirloom Madeley, with extra-large leaves and robust yields, is one. The popular lacinato types, sometimes called Tuscan or dinosaur kale, are in this species, and Adaptive’s version is no typical dark-green suspect: Dazzling Blue Lacinato is extra colorful, with blue-green leaves and vivid purple stems and midribs.
But it is the extra-tender, milder-tasting leaves of the Brassica napus kales — the Russo-Siberian ones, mostly from Northern Europe and Northern Asia — that Mr. Still calls “the best of the best.” Red Russian and Siberian are the two best known to gardeners.
Napus types are especially good for salads. Highly recommended: Simone Broadleaf, developed in collaboration with the Culinary Breeding Network and Timothy Wastell, an Oregon-based chef. The B. napus kales are also the hardiest, surviving to at least 10 degrees, and the Western Front variety is especially so.
And some are positively frilly: North Star Polaris, for instance, or Russian Frills. And for the ultimate in froth, try Bear Necessities, which has been called the seaweed of kale.
“It certainly gives a salad a lot of loft,” Ms. Kleeger said.
Kale, she is quick to point out, is not a summer vegetable: “You can eat it year-round if you manage your rotations, though some times of year it’s way better.”
In their kitchen garden, she and Mr. Still sow two rotations: one in early spring, to take them through midsummer, and another in mid-July. “Our fall crop is here to eat from through to spring,” Ms. Kleeger said, “in the great refrigerator of winter.”
Kale can be direct-sown, but to get ahead of weed competition, Ms. Kleeger and Mr. Still start seeds in the greenhouse in early March, where they grow for about five weeks, before transplanting them into the garden in early April. That’s a month or so ahead of their mid-May average final frost date, but the soil has warmed sufficiently and the days are long enough to urge rapid growth.
The July sowing is transplanted out in August; this is the crop that will be harvested for seed the following year, in June or July.
They space the kale seedlings 12 inches apart in all directions, and at spring planting time they enrich the bed with a 4-4-4 organic fertilizer blend or chicken-manure compost.
Tighter spacing is fine if you plan to thin the plants as they grow, harvesting some along the way. Beginning in June, Ms. Kleeger may harvest a couple of leaves from each of her half-dozen spring-sown kitchen garden plants every week.
“It’s good to keep harvesting gradually like that, when they’re tender,” she said, “and not to leave them sitting on the plant very long after they reach full size.”
Brassicas: The Gifts That Keep on Giving
In her first farming season, before she knew kale so well, Ms. Kleeger recalls seeing the biennial plants start budding up about this time of year, going into flowering mode beginning in March.
“Oh, it’s bolting — it’s done,” she remembers thinking. “But from my farming mentors, I learned otherwise.”
What is called the raab — asparagus-like shoots bearing flower buds — was beginning to form. Harvest when the buds are tight and look like miniature broccoli flowers, before they stretch, and it can be eaten raw or cooked the way you would broccoli.
“Pretty soon, I saw people start selling it at farmers’ markets,” she recalled.
Any brassica will do this if you leave it long enough, she learned. Now she looks forward to cabbage raab, too, and the “amazing delicacy” of collard’s version.
As she put it, “It’s a celebration of things as they go to flower.”
Not a bad way to start a new season in the garden, and on the farm.
Margaret Roach is the creator of the website and podcast A Way to Garden, and a book of the same name.
The Primal Thrill of a Cherry Tomato
Who knew how much emotion could be invested in a tiny urban garden?
By Jennifer Weiner
Sept. 27, 2019
I bought the first tomato plant mostly on a whim. My husband and I had had some casual, preliminary conversations about growing vegetables this summer, but we hadn’t made an official plan when I came home with half a dozen seedlings and no idea what I was doing with them.
As city dwellers, we don’t have a backyard. We have a roof deck and a bricked-in courtyard out back. I snuggled a few of the seedlings in with a lemon-basil plant, then purchased bags of soil and pots. I put the soil in the pots, put the plants in the soil, put the pots on the roof and hoped for the best. As the family’s early riser, my husband agreed to do the watering, prompting me to quote my favorite Onion headline: “Having a Gardener Is a Wonderful Hobby.” He was skeptical. I talked a good game, but in truth, I wasn’t optimistic, either.
But the tomato plants began to grow, going from six-inch-high delicate collections of leaves to vigorous, bushy, knee-high plants. And then, one morning my husband reported that he’d seen tiny tomatoes, a cluster of eight. I went outside, and there they were, the largest ones the size of gumballs, the smallest ones no bigger than peas. We were so thrilled, you would have thought we’d won the lottery.
Encouraged by that early success, I went back to Home Depot and returned with an eggplant, a banana pepper, bell pepper plants and strawberries, cucumbers and cantaloupes. I even bought four corn plants. And more soil. And more pots.
CreditMark Makela for The New York Times
CreditMark Makela for The New York Times
I started to notice who else in the neighborhood was growing veggies, especially the ones doing it better (and my daughters noticed me noticing: “Look,” they’d say to visitors, “there’s the plant Mom hates.”) When we went on vacation, my husband and I seriously contemplated taking our tomato plants with us (we settled for finding someone to water them). When I went on book tour, my husband sent me pictures of the tomatoes, the way years ago he might have sent me pictures of the kids.
My husband read up on eggplants, learning that they are bisexual and that they self-pollinate, and when the first tiny one appeared, I named it baby ganoush and documented its growth on Instagram. My husband baked a tomato tart and began taking breaks out on the deck, in the chair next to the more fruitful of the two strawberry plants, plucking berries to eat while he read.
These days, with my 50th birthday looming, I think a lot about where the surprises are going to come from. Not the satisfaction, not the joy, but the unexpected delights — the didn’t-see-it-coming thrill you get from learning that your bid on the house was accepted, or that you got the job offer, or that you’re having a baby.
At my age, life doesn’t offer many firsts. It’s short on surprises, and the ones on offer aren’t pleasant. Instead of congratulations, you’re pregnant, it’s more like bad news, you need a gum graft.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t upsides to being settled down. Chances are, you’ve gained some wisdom. You’ve fallen in love, and learned that no one dies of a broken heart; you’ve fallen on your face, and found you can almost always get back up. You’ve picked a job and a partner and a place to live.
ImagePotted plants in the author’s courtyard.
Potted plants in the author’s courtyard.CreditMark Makela for The New York Times
And yes, my kids are still surprising me with their insights and witticisms and the one time they made their beds without being asked. They still need me. But it’s not the same kind of need that they had when they were babies, when I was waiting to see them crawl or hunched over them as they learned to walk; when I’d walk into the baby’s room every morning feeling like I was unwrapping some fantastic and much-longed-for gift. My job as a mother has shifted from watching them grow to letting them go. My daughters are the ones with all the big reveals ahead of them — college and jobs and travel, love and heartbreak.
I know how privileged I am to have the luxury of wondering where my next joyful moment is coming from, how fortunate I am even to be able to ask, where’s the delight? I also know how lucky I am to have found my answer.
It’s the tomatoes.
As September is winding down, so is our little urban garden. We didn’t have what you’d call a bumper crop. The tomatoes and the banana pepper plants both thrived, but the eggplant yielded only three smallish fruits; my four corn plants gave us a total of five scrawny ears, and the cantaloupe vine just grows and grows and sits there, fruitless, taunting me.
We’re planning on doing better next time and maybe even starting next year’s plants from seeds. Maybe we’ll knock on that neighbor’s door and ask for his or her secrets. We’ll read up on sun and soil and mulch, we’ll file away tomato-centric recipes, we’ll add zucchini and squash and maybe even pumpkins to the mix. We’ll tend them and take pictures, enjoying the surprises as they grow.
Every other tree lining our street is either a pear or maple(maple/pear/maple...)don't know what kind the pears are but when they release
that fuzzy seed followed by the 'whirly birds' of the maples, clogged gutters soon follow and the outdoors 'games' are in full force in Ohio.
No disrespect to ice jams and snow removal etc.
Our daffodils here in NC are in full bloom along with the Bradford pear trees.
Earliest I've ever seen it happen.
The jonquils starting to fade today,
they've been up for 10 days and were in full bloom by the end of February. Spring must be here except it was in the low 20's a few days ago, vicious thunderstorms last night and this morning with golf ball sized hail an inch or more deep on the ground (shelter those cars!), threat of tornadoes. Intermittent internet all day due to high winds and all this headed for those east...
regards and all the best from the Ohio River Valley!
That would be a cool idea - having salmon flow thru....however,
That river was ocean water and frequently needed a cleaning shut-down because algae-formation was a constant concern. ha
Also, can't hardly get salmon to spawn in fine creeks yet - never mind through and into fancy homes....
Good grief (I see that someone after seeing me previously post that that video (here on I-Hub most likely ?), has slandered me beneath it by writing "Where's the drunken gardener ?")
Now I can no longer link folks to that.
Ha !...Quite the Joker that jerk.
An quite the misrepresentation as well because I don't drink at all.
I'd probably respond to him there but my Youtube username, just happens to be my actual full personal name.
What a beautiful setting and you appear to be an enterprising guy, some big bucks involved in that property.
My dad had an outdoorsman buddy who did something similar with water in the boonies of N. Michigan along the Sturgewon River 70 years ago. He diverted water from the river without the use of any pumps to heat and cool the house. I wish I could tell you more on the tech and mechanics of how it worked, but I was last there when I was 10, obviously he was far ahead of his time. I have a vivid memory of a 10'-12' wide swath of the river going right through his house with the same swift current the river ran in at that spot.
I think if I had the money that fellow that conceived Swanwick had I would have tried to creat a salmon run through the house ending in spawning ponds well back in the property, complete with climbing racks right in the house. Talk about a thrill and entertainment for a guy like me not to mention the satisfaction of contributing something worthwhile...sigh.
Really cool situation you're in and a nice looking RV you have there as well.
Thanks for showing us that and best of luck in everything.
(I thought I recognized your alias, I see you like playing the SPY)
Not exactly a "professional" landscaper per/se....Just needed to jokingly "imply" that I was one for that post to work.
I'm just a helper-guy who's worked lots on golf courses...
This is/was an ad which I've been currently running (in it you'll find a pic of me, as well as a youtube link)
As thing's have turned out though - I don't need to move :
The new owners are keeping me on.
I did get some decent responses from that ad though....
The neighborhood in which I both live and work and play :
"Composting is "the backbone" of good horticulture".....
Although, there are many plants though which simply prefer "average" soil...
I've learned that it's possible "to kill plants with kindness".
Howdy, very interesting video, I've always liked the name comfrey, but never knew anything about it. Every year it seems a professional landscaper drops in and posts like mad for a season with lots of pictures, we like pictures, post pictures. :)
Janice is your host.
Knock-Knock....Hello ?....(Rings the doorbell)....
Hey whose house is this (in the intro) ?
Looks like a nice place (what with all the landscaping)
'Cause me I'm a landscaper (and so I know).
For example last week I began on a yard which has a whole bunch of comfrey on it.
And so I am going to be "pinching" a bit -
Just to get myself (and a few others) started.....
Yes, we're all gonna become big COMFREY fans !
Hence, I can hardly wait.
You're not familiar with Pulvis Cuniculus Canis?
Understandable, not like he's AKC registered, roughly translated verrry roughly Dust Bunny Hound. Straightening up the basement I found an old stash of the great grand nieces and nephews that looked as they'd hunted down every dust particle down there. I don't have the heart to pitch them, the moms might take them, the kids are a soph, junior and 4 too kool for skrool college kids who would consider such a gesture from their uncle to fit in perfectly to their idea of what I know of this world. "sheesh, things are way different now Eubie (UB = Uncle Billy)".
But can he hunt?
Poor little thing...
I think she's in her end cycle, puny and brittle.
I'm glad the azalea survived, at least...
That warm streak we had in Jan. & Feb. caused a lot of damage here, I lost 2 knockout rose bushes plus suffered winter kill to my favorite thing, this funny little azalea. I gave this to my wife 23 years ago as a centerpiece for her Easter table, a cheapie from Krogers I grabbed on the fly lol. It came in a cheap plastic pot with some pink & green Easter foil stuffed in, it was finito 3 weeks after Easter and I wanted to trash it, but she insisted on setting it out and see if it would come back, 'no way says the master gardener , but knock yourself out ha!' Those aren't blooms, but the first leaves which are pushed out after no more than a week by the regular leaves. It usually is the very first color of the spring by far, earlier than Red Bud even. This pic was today, WAYyyyy late, not as vivid and with some lateral branch loss. I mean, 23 years old and it's only chest high as it is and as you can see, it's more tree than bush. Definitely not what you think of as azalea bushes which almost turn invasive with time. I wish I could figure out what it is, definitely should not be growing in this zone, I think being by the fence has saved it. The bare spots in the pic are also normally a peonie bed with just the tips visible of the few left to the left among irises.
Gardens look like crap this year.
Not sure whether you can watch it here or not:
It isn't available at the official South Park site at the moment… Or if you have Hulu, you can see it here:
Never seen it, steer me there.
Hey, that's great!
Though of course it's also just a touch reminiscent of the immortal South Park two-parter about Peruvian flute bands...
Brings back memories janice.......
Have you ever seen the movie "Voyage of the Yes"????
Punch it into youtube
Best on headphones!! El Condor Pasa
LOL.....cool....and Oh No!!!!
(tried to answer 3 statements at once.....)
They seem so much more… majestic when they're called condors.
Let's see if this works. Ok I took the pic with my iPhone then sent it to my email address. Saved it on my computer and opened it in Paint and enlarged it a little then saved it. Then uploaded to Ihub. BTW the wing span on both birds is a good 3 feet.
The building I work in is all mirrored glass and one of the dummies flew right into the glass. He fell out on the patio then recovered.
Yesterday was tax day 04/15 and I figured that is why they showed up since that is my line of work.
We are not allowed out on the patio since the previous owner of the building had a jumper.