More Brassicas - Kale and Beira Tronchuda
It's been overcast, cool and rainy for the past week with only one day of sunshine. I've done plenty of sowing and transplanting but with the cool temperatures, growth in the garden is fairly slow.
Earlier this month, a couple of the brassicas were transplanted into the garden, namely the kohlrabi and rapini (both of which I spoke about in a previous post). Kale and Beira Tronchuda were also supposed to be transplanted at that time but I forgot to add them to the hardening off tray, so they didn't end up in the ground until a couple of weeks ago.
|Baby Beira Tronchuda|
Last year, I grew 4 different varieties of kale: Red Russian, White Russian, Red Ursa and Starbor.
This is when keeping records comes in handy. My overall impression was that the kale did so-so but when I look back at the numbers from 2015, the 2016 harvest was significantly better. How much better, you ask? Well, in 2015 I grew both White and Red Russian and harvested 121 grams and 233 grams per sq. ft. respectively, so we are talking about a four-fold increase.
In fact, my largest ever harvest of kale was 824 grams/sq. foot in 2014 from an unidentified kale variety (dubbed NCK - "Not Curly Kale" - as it was a different variety than what was stated on the seed packet). This year, both White Russian and Red Ursa beat it out, so I would say that's a big success. Did I mention that they were also delicious? No point in growing a lot of a particular variety if it doesn't taste good, now is there.
But I’m not celebrating quite yet as I’m certain that the total yield could have been much better. Several factors reduced the overall harvest: (1) the heat coupled with insufficient watering until the drip irrigation was installed in mid-July, (2) the kale was near the back of the bed and somewhat shaded by taller crops for a good part of the summer and lastly (3) I didn’t pick it as often as I should have and many leaves were chucked into the compost as they were too old (my bad!).
I also learned another valuable lesson in 2016: Keep that netting on the bed from the beginning of the season straight to the end. Last year, I took the netting off the bed in late September and, within a couple of days, I noticed several cabbage whites fluttering about. I put the netting back on but it was too late – I was picking cabbage worms out of the kale for the rest of the season, especially on the curly Starbor…those sneaky buggers know a good hiding spot when they see it!
This year, I’ve decided to stick with the same 4 varieties. Starbor was a new addition last year and, other than the cabbage worm issue, I also found it to be a bit tough, but I decided to give it another go as I do enjoy curly kale in salad and it's toughness may have been from lack of water.
I’m hopeful that the kale harvest this year will be significantly improved. Although I can’t do much about the weather, the drip irrigation will be running, the kale will be in a sunnier spot and I’ll be upping my harvest game.
While kale did well last year, the Beira Tronchuda – a kale/collard type green – was a total flop…as in a zero harvest. Why? Because the seedlings were right at the back of the bed and shaded by the kale on one side and a spruce tree on the other. I placed them there as I thought that they would grow more or less at the same pace as the kale and then, as they do get rather tall, surpass it. Well, that’s obviously not what happened.
|You can see the pale, yellowing leaves of the Beira Tronchuda on the upper left corner|
- and it never grew much bigger than that
I grow Beira Tronchuda primarily for use in the traditional Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde, so I'm only growing a couple of plants. That may not sound like a lot but in my best year, I was able to harvest 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg) of leaves from one plant...it's one seriously productive crop given the right conditions. With their new, sunnier position in the bed, I'm hopeful that we will have a bountiful year - it won't take much to beat last years harvest, that's for sure!