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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Kale ‘Black Magic’: An improved Cavalo Nero

Posted by Graham Rice on 22 Nov 2012 at 12:27 PM

Old forms of black kale could be very variable but not ‘Black Magic’. Image ©Tozer SeedsOver the last twenty years, black kale has gone from a plant that no one had heard of, to a fashionable vegetable, to an unexpected ornamental and then to cause of frustration. Also known as Tuscan kale, Cavolo Nero, Lacinato kale and Tuscan cabbage, amongst other things, it’s an important ingredient in traditional Italian minestrone.

The problem has been that while many of us wanted to grow it, the plants we grew were rarely very consistent. I know when I grew it years ago as a summer foliage plant no two were quite the same. Now comes a British-bred variety, ‘Black Magic’, which solves that problem and which also brings other great qualities.

As well being uniform in colour, the foliage of ‘Black Magic’ is darker than earlier forms and with more intense puckering. The leaves are a little narrower, it’s much less likely to bolt, and its frost resistance is even better than before. Ready to pick about three months from sowing, baby leaves are ready in about 30 days and when harvested as a baby leaf crop, its leaves are more tender. And there’s one more thing.

I found that plants I’ve grown in the past tended to stretch up on leg, making them unstable; you really don’t want to have to stake kale. ‘Black Magic’ stays more compact and produces its rosette of leaves closer to the ground.

You can order seed of kale ‘Black Magic’ from Plants of Distinction and from Suttons.

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