Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seakale, germination and care - as well as something a little historical

Grandad's 1941 Dept of Ag leaflet's - cost 2s 6d !
Solid advice to kitchen gardners, still valid and helping the family 70 years later.
Thats value.
Sea Kale is a perennial green, hardy and reliable once established, and that's the trick.
My initial batch had a very poor germination rate,this is because the seed is contained in a cork like husk that allows the plant to propagate with the tides in nature.

After some research I found that removing the outer seed casing help's and speed's up germination.
Put the seeds in a bowl of water for a few days,then using a very sharp knife, like a craft knife or scalpel, very carefully and gently take off the outer husk. It's a little like a tiny avocado
Seakale seed, de-husked and ready for pots
Apparently germination usually takes place in 3 to 5 weeks at 15°c but -as I found -can be slow and irregular.
I have already planted out 4, 3 failed but the fourth is doing well under a cloche for now.
As the plant is perennial, and lasts many years, the main aim I have in the first year is to establish at least four plants to make a start.
Paper pots ready to take seed
A new tool I got myself this year came in handy. From Seedaholic in Mayo I got a Nether Wallop paper potter.
Now, I have made my own in the past, but that was all flour glue and lacked uniformity.
The paper potter saves time and bother, recycles newspapers and gives good, uniform starter pots.
It's a very simple, clever and cute addiion to the seed box.

The pots will not disintegrate until planted, even if soaking because their walls are several layers thick so will only bio-degrade after they are put into the ground.
Using the system means there is no root disturbance or damage because the paper pot goes straight in the ground will rot down and the roots will grow through it.

It also looks and feels good and could not be simpler to use. It's a once off investment and well worth it.

As for the seakale, I really look forward to getting it established and growing well, with a bit of luck.

The Fresh, creamy-white stalks of sea kale are a seasonal delicacy at the deadest time of year.
They were harvested from sandy beaches in Victorian times when it was a popular vegetable.
Collectors covered the stalks with sand to keep out the light and develop a delicate flavour.
But over time, wild supplies became so over picked and endangered that it was made illegal to harvest from the beach.

Seakale can be forced like chicory or endive to maintain delicacy to a similar height to rhubarb.
Unlike rhubarb, the frill of leaves at the top can also be eaten.
It can be eaten raw or cooked with melted butter. The Victorians cooked it with a white sauce and served kind of like asparagus.  So here's hoping this batch will do better!
fly leaf advert from 1941 manual

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  1. Hi this is Terri - I am interested in your paper pots and have thought about doing the same but first of all I used the cardboard innards of toilet rolls. Yesterday when I was transplanting tomato seedlings I was horrified to discover lots of mould/fungus on the cardboard and inside on the compost!!! Why did this happen? The pots were standing in a seed tray in a propogator so was it the micro climate or something on the cardboard what do you think? Is the same likely to happen with the newspaper pots or not - they seem to be more substantial.

  2. I presume the mold came from being in the propagator, and that it is harmless.
    The paper pots will break down in the soil.

    For more advice, I'd suggest joining the forum at

    And if you want to visit the garden in Carna, no worries, just email a phone number to


Thanks for commenting - its cool that you took the time