Growing Perennial Kale for the Hungry Gap

I’m growing two types of perennial kale this year and they make an excellent complement to the annuals.  They are especially useful in the hungry gap, when annual kale is exhausted or going to seed the perennials are in their youthful resurgence and growing strong.  That lasts well into the time when the annuals are in their prime again.  They are both easy to propagate from cuttings too, see later!

The first variety is Taunton Deane kale (Brassica oleracea var Acephala) an old variety of perennial kale that keeps growing for years giving a tasty supply of greens all year round.  It grow’s tall and has the appearance of a tree Kale, my largest ‘tree’ is two metres tall and very hardy, provided it’s well supported. Being a perennial it withstand pests very well (although they are not immune to them), survives all kinds of weather and has a flourish of new growth each spring and summer. It is extremely nutritious and lovely steamed. Taunton Deane plants do slow down after about 5 years, so it is worth making cuttings every now and again to produce new stock.

We also grow another perennial kale called Daubenton’s (Brassica oleracea var Ramosa) which has much more of a horizontal habit and doesn’t grow as large as the Taunton Deane.  It’s leaves are even more tender and smaller, for me it competes with the annual kales, which is saying something!  Just like Taunton Deane it is wonderful in the hungry gap.  I find it gets a bit straggly by autumn though so I tend to cut it back in late summer, it’s back to full strength by the time I need it!

You can make new plants really easily by pinching off side shoots that have knobbly ridges on the stem. After trimming the stems put into a pot of compost, remove any larger leaves leaving the growing tips. Within a week or two the plant will have perked up and will start forming roots within about a month. You can also put cuttings straight into the ground with two thirds of the stem below the surface of the soil. These plants are truly amazing, the cuttings seem to have some special properties producing roots really quickly. We make cuttings from October through to May – these are fantastic plants to add to your veg garden to give you another green leafy vegetable to eat without any work at all.

When we have a surplus of potential cuttings due to wind damage we often just dump them all in a bucket of water, after a week or so the ones that still look strong get planted in compost and the rest go to make compost.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

18 Responses

  1. Brian Archibald says:

    Interesting article Steve. Unfortunately they do not seem to be too readily available, but I’ll keep looking. Brian

  2. Karin says:

    Hi steve
    Really like your website. Love the way you are so organised with growing veg. can I ask where you source your seeds from? Especially seeds like kalettes which are not easy to find?

  3. Hi Karin, they are readily available in the UK on Amazon

  4. Dixie woodman says:

    Do you sell cuttings or seeds of the Daubenton or Taunton Diane kale ? If so would or could you send /sell to United States ? If so I am seriously interesting in purchasing both

  5. Hi Dixie, we give them away – we don’t sell anything – but unfortunately it’s illegal to transport live plants and seeds to the US without a licence. As I understand it packages are often irradiated too : All the best – Steve

  6. Mary says:

    Hi Steve. I have a Taunton D., which I love…however at this point in the year, it looks like a Lace curtain I’ve picked off hundreds of caterpillars and I’d be interested to know how you evade lace curtains syndrome!
    I’d love to have a Daubenton cutting if you ever have a spare please…perhaps I could send you some seeds as a swap? Let me know and I’ll tell you what I’ve collected. Keep up the good work – don’t know what I’d do without your advice. Bless you and your family, mary

  7. Hi Mary, I don’t really do anything except pick off leaves that have a bad infestation of caterpillars and sometimes look for eggs. I find that because I’m picking so many leaves off the plants every week they never get too bad. They always recover though : all the best – Steve

  8. Edward Norris says:

    Hi Steve, really enjoyed reading about your kales. Would you be interested in perhaps doing a swap of some seeds for some cuttings?

  9. Send me you address and I will post you some

  10. Edward Norris says:

    That is really kind of you Steve; thank you. Where do I send my address details to? Do you have an email address or something to send them to? Kind Regards, Ed

  11. Chrissy says:

    Do you have any more cuttings to exchange with some seeds, Steve? Is there anything you want in particular?

  12. Hi Chrissy, it’s a bit late to root cuttings now, I will have more in spring : All the best – Steve

  13. Christina Chappell Birch says:

    okay,Steve, thanks for reply. Please save some for me in Spring and I will be in touch. Seasons greetings, Chrissy

  14. Christina Chappell Birch says:

    Thanks , Steve. Please save some for me in Spring and I will be in touch. Seasons greetings, Chrissy

  15. Susan Waters says:

    Hi Steve, I had no idea that perrenial vegetables were a thing. Sounds like fun to try. I have looked at your comments and noted that you don’t sell your cuttings, however having exhausted all the websites that are all “out of stock”, please could you make an exception and sell a cutting. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong time of year.

  16. Hi Susan, unfortunately I’ve decided that I will only provide cuttings to members of my channel, membership is via Membership is free if you can’t afford it : All the best – Steve

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