Ornamental Kales In Color

Kale Peacock

Our ornamental cabbages and kales have begun to come into color. Their shades will continue to become more intense as the season cools off, but we have noticed that cabbage and kale sales have taken off early this year. These plants are becoming established pillars of autumn decor, so people are starting to buy them just as the color emerges.

A really nice kale this year is ‘Peacock’. It has very frilly edges and sharply defined color in its stalks and stems during the early season, which makes it an eye-catching jump-off for sales. The plant’s habit has an overall feathery appearance, and the center gets very, very red when the cool nights move in.

Kale Peacock

It’s still edible, by the way, so you can use the leaves as a large plate garnish and the flavor is mild as kale goes. We even saw it featured—by name—on a TLC cooking show. They sautéed it with bacon slices and garlic cloves (finely chopped) and sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top. We are surprised how many people use ‘Peacock’ as ornamental cooking kale.

Kale Red Bor

A popular kale returning from last season is ‘Bor’. Its leaves have extremely tight and curly edges and the plant will eventually turn a deep purple. It’s another mild kale taste-wise, and we have heard people recommend chopping the tight leaves and throwing them into salads. Once the frost hits it, the leaves will turn sweet and juicy.

Kale Glamour Red

Kale ‘Glamour Red’ is noted for its strong center of red. Coming across as almost a two-toned design, it has a sharply defined core of cherry pink. All-American Selections gave it an award last year, and the judges noted its strong performance compared to other kales. We agree, but we also think the cherry center is just plain cool.

Kale Nagoya Red

‘Nagoya’ is a large circular variety with a deep red center that grows larger as the season cools. This was one of the first popular kale cultivars, so it is the one that set the standard. It’s a very tough and tasteless kale, so it also established the prevailing attitude that ornamental kales should not be eaten. As far as ‘Nagoya’ is concerned, that theory is correct.

Kales are incredibly cold hardy. As long as they are not smothered in a snow bank, they will actually provide winter greens throughout the cold months. Frost and light snow do not harm the leaves, and the plants will bounce back and grow some more anytime there is a smidgen of warmth in the air.

For value, you can’t beat kale: they are pretty, tasty (some of them), and last well into the winter.