A Guide to Kale: The Different Varieties

Not just a nutritious leafy green vegetable, Kale – with its many variations – is a hardy plant that no garden should be without

A plentiful harvest of kale from my garden

Kale is a resilient plant, with many varieties that thrive year-round in the Pacific Northwest

At my house we have been able to go right through this winter without buying any greens – our backyard kitchen garden has provided no end of organic salads, soup greens and kale for cooking.

Now in February, these same plants are bursting with delicious new growth, all sweetened by winter’s frosts.

5 Fabulous Varieties of Kale

Recently, for a fun-filled event at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden celebrating the bestselling book The Book of Kale with author Sharon Hanna, I picked samples of the various varieties of kale in my garden. Here are five that sailed through winter in my garden:

Tuscan: This is my favourite – elegant in the garden with its long textured blackish leaves that are super easy to rinse off for dinner.

Rainbow Tuscan: Incredibly resilient and so pretty, this plant offers smaller leaves in a myriad of purples and greens. My Rainbow Tuscan is well into its second year and just keeps on giving.

Scottish Kale: Super frilly and dramatic-looking when planted in a cluster in the garden. While the leaves are a little more time consuming to wash, I like this plant’s solidness and hardy spirit.

Redbor: Redbor is gorgeous with masses of stunning, curly purple foliage; I am using it this year for ornamental plantings in many of my container gardens, in addition to plantings in raised beds.

Red Russian: Tender with easy-to-rinse leaves, I grow mountains of this type. Just let one plant go to seed and it self-seeds like crazy. It grows anywhere: in sand, gravel, between the cracks of the sidewalk, and you can simply tug out these little seedlings and plug them into your garden wherever you would like more kale.

When to Plant Your Kale

In the Pacific Northwest, you can direct-seed kale outside in your garden right now – it should last through the summer, giving you delicious buds in August and September, and then seeds for next year’s crop. And for a winter garden, start even more kale this coming June for full-sized plants that last right through fall and winter and into the following spring. 

So plant one now, or five, or 50 – honestly, you can’t have too much kale!