Crucifer plants. Kale or Leaf cabbage alludes to certain vegetables of the plant species Brassica oleracea.

Image courtesy of Rasbak CC BY-SA 3.0 license.Boerenkool.jpg



In this series we review the plants known as Crucifers.{ the four petals of the flower form a cross when opened.} These plants include many familiar vegetables such as Turnip, Cabbage and Radish. They also include garden favourites such Candytuft, Stock and Wallflower. 

Here we review the Kale, a seaside member of the family. 

Children picking Red Russian kale ,in a family vegetable garden.

Courtesy of woodleywonderworks   CC BY-Sa 2.0 License.

Description and habitat

This plant has purple or green leaves the central leaves do not form a head as they do in headed cabbages. Some varieties can reach a height of six or seven feet while others are much more compact, symetrical and good to eat. However, many are coarse and indigestible.


Difference in kale varieties can be told by the low,intermediate or long length of the stem, along with the variety of leaf types. It is also referred to as the sea cabbage or wild cabbage.


The vegetable was very popular in Victorian times  it was a staple vegetable in their diets. This member of the Brassica family.

The UK variety is Crambe maritima  it also grows wild along the coastlines of Europe from the north Atlantic to the Black sea.

This species grows to 75 cm high and 60 cm wide {two feet}. it is a mound forming and spreading perennial. They produce fleshy glaucous leaves and abundant white flowers. The seeds are produced in globular pods. It is very rare in Northern Ireland recorded from county Down and County Antrim, and from a number of seaside counties of Ireland.

Along the coasts of England they are encountered on shingle beaches above the high tide mark. 

Crambe maritima 

Courtesy of Slim at et.wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.5 license.Crambe Maritima Estonia.jpg

Culinary uses of Crambe maritima.

Related to the cabbage it is cultivated as a vegetable. The wild plants occurring on shingle beaches were surrounded with stones by local people in order to blanch the new shoots. By the early 19th century it had become a popular cultivated vegetable in many gardens in England.

As a vegetable it appeared in Thomas Jefferson's garden book of 1809. It was also served in the Brighton Pavillion . The shoots were served like Asparagus usually steamed with butter, salt and pepper.  Older leaves become bitter and not so pleasant.

There are no known medicinal uses . 

The crucifer flowers of Crambe maritima.Growing in Estonia.

Courtesy of Wilson 44691  CC BY-SA  3.0 License.

The blanched shoots of Crambe maritima.

Courtesy of Stevechelt CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Crambe maritima { in their natural habitat} growing on a beach at Landguard Fort 

Courtesy of Andrew Hill CC By-SA 2.0 License.

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