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Kale came to name a variety of plants of the cole family during the 19th-century, all of which bore dark green leaves that maintained integrity after long boiling. The name derived from calimus, a cabbage root, dried and smoked in the era before the coming of tobacco into Europe. (Calumet, or peace pipe, was another word derived from the this antique root.)[1] These included Borecole (Green Curled Kale), a favorite winter green in Germany, but relatively rare in the United States until the latter decades of the century, its close relative, Scots Kale, famous for its resistance to cold weather, and the more delicate Sea Kale (Crambe maritime), that grew on the sandy oceanic margins southern and western England. Sea Kale was domesticated in the 1760s and popularized by a treatise composed by Dr. John Coakley Lettsom.

Besides supplying much craved greenery in cold times and places, kale performed an important task on the farm. In seaside areas and fields prone to salting, the kale drew up salt into its body, preventing the mineralization of soil. Hence once encounters kale in rotations of field crops in certain coastal areas of the United States. It was cultivated in market quantities from Norfolk northward in the United States.

Kale was grown like cabbage. It is often started in a hotbet or nursery bed and transplanted. They proved particularly vital when planted after newly harvested peas. Once transplanted, they required a week of steady watering. When placed in the garden plot, they tend to be spaced widely, sometimes as much as 30 inches apart. 100 plants were deemed sufficient for a large family. Because of the premium placed on winter greens, late summer plantings enjoyed greater regard than Spring. Seed—usually that of the Dwarf German Kale/Borecole or the Purple Leaved, was sown in August or September, depending upon the plant variety being grown. Many varieties were developed during the course of the century. Because the plant was an annual grown from seed, the creation of proprietary seed/varieties seemed a path to profit to seed brokers. Almost invariably, gardeners did not harvest until after the first sharp frost, for common opinion held that the plants flavor only mellowed then. [2] The decided conviction of consumers

Sea Kale and Rhubarb enjoyed a culinary vogue in the 1830s among genteel gardeners. Sea Kale never became an extensive market crop, but enjoyed popularity by kitchen gardeners growing their own produce.

Kale was almost invariably boiled, sometimes with bacon, sometimes plain. It was then sauced with butter, cream sauces, or enlivened with vinegar and oil. It often accompanied meats, particularly corned beef.

1. “Cabbage,” Southern Literary Messenger 8 (1842), p. 201.
2. Robert Buist, The Family Kitchen Gardener (New York: Orange Judd, 1847). P. 30.

Buda Kale    History

The Buda Kale somewhat resembles the Purple; but the stalk is shorter. The leaves are purplish, somewhat glaucous, cut and fringed. The variety is not only hardy and well flavored, but continues to produce sprouts longer than any other sort. It is sometimes blanched like sea-kale.

Cabbaging Kale    History

This is a new variety (in 1863), and very much resembles the Dwarf Green Curled in the nature, color, and general appearance of the leaves: the heart-leaves, however, fold over each other, somewhat like those of a cabbage, but, on account of the curls of the margin, not so compactly. The quality is excellent.

Cow-cabbage    History

This variety generally grows to the height of about six feet; although in some places it is reported as attaining a height of twelve feet, and even upwards. The leaves are large, — measuring from two and a half to nearly three feet in length, — smooth, or but slightly curled. It is generally grown for stock; but the young sprouts are tender and mild-flavored when cooked. Its value for agricultural purposes appears to have been greatly overrated; for, when tried in this country against other varieties of cabbages, the produce was not extraordinary. The plants should be set three feet or three feet and a half apart.

Dwarf Green Curled Borecole    History

Leaves sixteen to eighteen inches in length, very dark green, deeply lobed, or lyrate, and hairy, or hispid, on the nerves and borders. The leaf-stems are nearly white. The variety produces small tufts, or collections of leaves, which are excellent for fodder, and which may be cut several times during the season. It is sometimes cultivated for stock ; but, as a table vegetable, is of little value.

Flanders Kale    History

This is a sub-variety of the Tree-cabbage, from which it is distinguished by the purplish color of its foliage. Its height is nearly the same, and the plant has the same general appearance. It is, however, considered somewhat hardier.

Green Marrow-stem Borecole    History

Stem green, about five feet high, clavate, or club-formed; thickest at the top, where it measures nearly two inches and a half in diameter. This stem, or stalk, is filled with a succulent pith, or marrow, which is much relished by cattle ; and, for this quality, the plant is sometimes cultivated. The leaves are large, and nearly entire on the edges; the leafstems are thick, short, white, and fleshy. It is not so hardy as most of the other varieties. The plants should be grown about three feet apart in one direction, by two feet or two feet and a half in the opposite.

Lannilis Borecole    History

Stem five feet high, thicker and shorter than that of the Cow or Tree Cabbage; leaves long, entire on the borders, pale-green, and very thick and fleshy. The leaf-stems are also thicker and shorter than those of the last-named varieties. The stalk is largest towards the top, and has the form of that of the Marrow-stem. It sometimes approaches so near that variety, as to be scarcely distinguishable from it.

Neapolitan Curled Kale    History

The Neapolitan Borecole is remarkable for its peculiar manner of growth, but is hardly worthy of cultivation as a table vegetable, or even for stock. The stem is short and thick, and terminates in an oval bulb, somewhat in the manner of the Kohl Rabi. From all parts of this bulb are put forth numerous erect, small leaves, finely curled on their edges. The whole plant does not exceed twenty inches in height. The leaves are attached to footstalks six or seven inches long. They are obovate, smooth on the surface, with an extraordinary number of white veins, nearly covering the whole leaf. The fringed edges are irregularly cut and finely curled, and so extended as nearly to conceal the other parts of the leaf. As the plant gets old, it throws out numerous small branches from the axils of the leaves on the sides of the bulb. The swollen portion of the stem is of a fleshy, succulent character, and is used in the manner of Kohl Eabi; between which and the Cabbage it appears to be intermediate.

Palm Kale    History

Stalk six feet in height, terminating at the top in a cluster of leaves, which are nearly entire on the borders, blistered on the surface like those of the Savoys, and which sometimes measure three feet in length by four or five inches in width. As grown in France, the plant is remarkable for its fine appearance, and is considered quite ornamental; though, as an article of food, it is of little value. In England, it is said to have a tall, rambling habit, and to be little esteemed. The plants should be set three feet and a half apart in each direction.

Tall Purple Kale    History

With the exception of its color, the Purple Borecole much resembles the Tall Green Curled. As the leaves increase in size, they often change to green; but the veins still retain their purple hue. When cooked, the color nearly or quite disappears. It is remarkably hardy, and is much cultivated in Germany.

Red-stalked Kale    History

Stalk purplish-red, four and a half or five feet high, and surmounted by a cluster of large, fleshy leaves, on short, thick stems. The stalk is much larger than that of the Green Marrow-stem, and sometimes measures more than three inches in diameter. It is cultivated in the same manner, and used for the same purposes, as the last-named variety.

Tall Scotch Kale    History

This variety, if unmixed, may be known by its brightgreen, deeply lobed, and curled leaves. Its height is two feet and a half and upwards. Very hardy and productive. The parts used are the crowns of the plants; and also the tender side-shoots, which are produced in great abundance. These boil well, and are sweet and delicate, especially after frost; though the quality is impaired by protracted, dry, freezing weather.

Siberian Kale    History

huge oak-leaved purple kale with feather edges. A variety with rather tender consistency that can be consumed raw.

Thousand-headed Borecole    History

The Thousand-headed Borecole much resembles the Tree or Cow Cabbage, but is not so tall-growing. It sends out numerous side-shoots from the main stem, and is perhaps preferable to the last-named sort. It is chiefly valuable as an agricultural plant, but may occasionally be grown in gardens on account of its great hardiness; but its flavor is inferior to all other winter greens.

Variegated Kale    History

This is a sub-variety of the Purple Borecole, growing about a foot and a half high. The leaves vary much in size, and are lobed and finely curled. They are also beautifully variegated, sometimes with green and yellowish-white or green and purple, and sometimes with bright-red and green. It is frequently grown as an ornamental plant, is occasionally employed for garnishing, and is sometimes put into bouquets. It is very good cooked after frost, but is not quite so hardy as the Purple Borecole.

Woburn Perennial Kale    History

This is a tall variety of the Purple Borecole, with foliage very finely divided or fringed. The plant lasts many years, and may be propagated by cuttings, as it neither flowers readily nor perfects well its seeds. Its produce is stated to have been more than four times greater than that of either the Green or Purple Borecole on the same extent of ground. The weight of produce from ten square yards was a hundred and forty-four pounds ten ounces; but some of the large kinds of cabbages and savoys will exceed this considerably, and prove of better quality. The Woburn Perennial Kale can therefore only be recommended where the climate is too severe for the more tender kinds of the Cabbage tribe.

Sea Kale (Crambe tnaritima)    History

Sea-kale is a native of the southern shores of Great Britain, and is also abundant on the sea-coasts of other countries. There is but one species cultivated, and this is perennial and perfectly hardy. The leaves are large, thick, oval or roundish, sometimes lobed on the borders, smooth, and of a peculiar bluishgreen color; the stalk, when the plant is in flower, is solid and branching, and measures about four feet in height; the flowers, which are produced in clusters or groups, are white and have an odor similar to that of honey. The seed is enclosed in a yellowish-brown shell or pod, which externally and internally resembles the pit or cobble of the common cherry. To cultivate keep the plants clear and free from weeds; nip off the shoots of such as tend to run to flower, and in the autumn, when the leaves have decayed, add a liberal dressing of compost or stable manure. Very early in the following spring stir or rake over the bed, being careful not to injure the crowns of the roots, and cover eight or ten inches deep with the material intended for bleaching; this may be beach sand, dry peat, common gravel, or whatever of a like character can be obtained.

Boiled Kale (The Field & Garden Vegetables of America 1863)    History

They are often, but not always, frozen when cut; and, when this is the cass, they should be put into a cool cellar or in cold water until the frost is out of them. It will take one-half to threequarters of an hour to boil them tender. Put them into the boiling water; to which add a lump of soda. This rather softens them, and causes them to retain their green color. When done, press the water thoroughly out, chop them up with a knife, put them into a vessel to evaporate still more of the water, and serve with melted butter, pepper and salt. In Germany, they frequently boil a few chestnuts, and chop up with the Kale; between which and the stem and stalk of the Kale it is difficult to perceive much difference in taste. Fearing Burr, Jr., The Field & Garden Vegetables of America (Boston: Crosby & Nichols, 1863), p. 231.

Borecole (Working Farmer 1850)    History

Greens should never be placed in cold water for cooking; the water should boil before they are thrown in, and be kept briskly boiling until they are tender. If salt and a little pearlash be previously added to the water, the greens will maintain their natural color, and be more tender than when boiled in plain water. James J. Mapes, Working Farmer 1 (New York: Kingman & Cross, 1850), p. 80.

Siberian Kale (Warm Springs Receipt-Book 1897)    History

Wash and pick the kale over carefully, cutting off the roots. Again wash carefully and drain it well; put into a saucepan with a pint of water, and allow it to simmer for half an hour; use a strainer in taking it from the saucepan, and chop it fine. Put back into the saucepan to become hot; season with salt and pepper to the taste, and two tablespoonsful of butter. Serve on a hot dish. Kale can be boiled with a small piece of breakfast bacon. When done drain well. Serve on a heated dish with a few slices of bacon laid on it. E. T. Glover, Warm Springs Receipt Book (Richmond: B. F. Johnston, 1897), p. 148.

Kale Greens (Vaughan’s Vegetable Cook Book 1898)    History

These make excellent greens for winter and spring use. Boil hard one half hour with salt pork or corned beef, then drain and serve iu a hot dish. Garnish with slices of hard boiled eggs, or the yolks of eggs quirled by pressing through a patent potato masher. It is also palatable served with a French dressing. Vaughan’s Vegetable Cook Book (New York & Chicago: Vaughan’s Seed Store, [1898]), , p. 9.

Sea Kale (Murrey’s Salads & Sauces 1885)    History

The blanched sprouts are the only part used after cutting; let them lie in cold, slightlysalted water nearly an hour, wash and trim them, and tie in small bunches; put these bunches into a saucepanful of boiling water, add a little salt, and boil twenty minutes; drain and send to table on a napkin, with melted or drawn butter in a sauce-boat, or serve them in a side-dish with sauce vinaigrette poured over them. They are also good served cold with a plain salad sauce. p. 136.