Friday, March 23, 2012

Portugese Kale

 

Portugese Kale - Brassica oleracea var. costata
Looking for a new and nutritious vegetable to plant in the garden?  Try Portuguese kale, also known as Portuguese cabbage or couve tronchuda.   It is a common and important food in the Portuguese diet and is found only in Portugal or in regions with a strong Portuguese influence like Hawai`i.  It’s different from the traditional round cabbage. Looking more like collards, these plants are leafier, having round leaves with thick, white ribs and grow to 2 ft. or more across.

Portuguese kale has a delicious, mild sweet flavor. It is an essential ingredient for the authentic caldo verde, a winter staple and favorite soup in Portugal. In most recipes, the broth is thickened with mashed potatoes,  beans or pasta, and spiced up with onions and garlic, linguica or smoked pork loin. The large leaves are quite flexible and when blanched are easy to wrap around meat, rice or vegetable fillings.

Because this cabbage forms only a very loose head, it’s convenient to pick only the outside leaves a few at a time. If crowded, it becomes leggy and produces fewer and smaller leaves.  The plant can tolerate a coastal exposure so it will grow  near the beach or along the cliffs.


Finding seed – many times it is listed under ethnic vegetables as Portuguese cabbage or Portuguese kale. Try Kitchen Garden Seeds (www.kitchengardenseeds.com, 860-567-6086) and Redwood City Seeds (www.ecoseeds.com, 650-325-7333).