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Friday, 13 June 2008

Easy Luxury Vegetable

Mark Twain said that a cauliflower is nothing more than a cabbage with a college education but there's another, little known member of the family with inherited wealth as well!

I'm being a little coy about its name because it's shared with a lowly imposter from the beetroot family - Beta Vulgaris if you please otherwise known as "Sea Kale Beet". No, I'm talking about Crambe Maritima or "Sea Kale" to its friends.

A fairly tough character, it still survives wild on some British beaches but the Victorians did rather molly-coddle it so it got a reputation for being "difficult". Let's look at a calendar and consider the reality:

December: Up end a black plastic bucket where the plant was last summer. Put a brick on top to hold it down.
April-May: Lift up the bucket, snap off the white Sea Kale shoots, Replace bucket. Repeat twice
June: Find a summer use for the bucket and brick.

You'll notice that there's no annual ritual of sowing seed. It's a perennial that you start off by planting bits of root known in the trade as "thongs" (I kid you not). Give it a couple of Springs without the bucket and you'll get lovely honey scented flowers. Then put it to work.

It tastes of… well, Sea Kale! It's slightly cabbage-like but much nicer. Use it raw in salads or steam it. Cheese-based sauces are good but don't cook the Sea Kale for more than 10 minutes - it goes tough and bitter.

If you get bored with the bucket routine, just let the plant grow. It's fairly good looking. Or dig up the roots. You can eat them too.


Links
Wikipedia on Sea Kale
"Plants For A Future" article on Crambe Maritima

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