Grit Blogs > A Long Time Coming

Flowering Kale and Icelandic Poppies

A photo of Shannon SaiaI was walking to the building where I work this past week when I passed a flower bed that drew my attention. I paused for a moment, and thought, oh – of course! That’s ornamental cabbage. Not because of the green and purple ruffled leaves, but because of the tall stalk growing up out of it and beginning to reveal its tiny yellow flowers. It looked an awful lot like this: 



 kale bolting

This is my kale, which I have overwintered, by which I mean I did absolutely nothing to it all winter and, as it was unseasonably mild, it just continued to grow. The main reason I left it there when I started working on clearing my garden space of grass (once and for all, I swear!) was because it was growing there in a nice block which left no room for grass or weeds to grow, so I thought, why pull it up? It’s doing a job for me. Every once in awhile I would go outside and cut myself some, and throw it in the juicer with a couple of apples. Sometimes I made a smoothie with that juice, adding it to yogurt, banana and frozen peaches in the blender. Never, in a million years, could I possibly eat all of this kale. 

Don’t get me wrong – I like kale – just not this particular variety. I prefer dinosaur kale, or any of the smaller-leafed kales, which are awesome for salads. You can cut it fresh, wash it, and wilt it ever so slightly with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic and sea salt. You can’t imagine how good this is. It makes me salivate just thinking about it. 

But this kale, which is currently functioning as an edible bush, marking the boundary of one of the sides of my daughter’s “mud box” in the garden, is tougher. You can juice it, or cook it, but tender greens for an early summer salad, it is not. So why do I have so much of it? 

Because when I go to my favorite nursery early every fall to get my broccoli, I tend to get a little overexcited. It’s the only place I know of where you can buy broccoli transplants for the fall. They also do Brussels sprouts and chard, and this particular variety of kale, and because I’m always so excited about the prospect of continuing my garden into the fall, I buy them all. Never mind that I can grow my own chard quite easily from seed, and have for years. I mean, look at them! They have red stalks, when everything in a fall garden is destined to be green. And the kale is cheap. It’s gorgeous. And it’s food. What’s not to like? 

Still, not in a million years can I eat all of that kale. 


I’m thinking that this year I’ve gotten a lesson in where those kale seeds come from, and I’m wondering, could I get some of those kale seeds and, maybe, save them? Could I plant my very own kale seeds this fall? Never mind that I hardly even like the darn stuff. I mean, I really ought to drink more green juice, right? I can’t even imagine how I might go about getting those seeds. But I know that the seeds for all of the brassicas are tiny round black balls, and maybe if I let them all flower and keep my eyes on those little yellow flowers I will see the seeds, kind of like how you can see the seeds in the dead head of a marigold. I never used to know that that was where marigold seeds come from either, but now I save them. So how hard could it be? 

Anyway, enough of all that. On the subject of brassicas, this year I’m going to give myself a special treat. I actually bought these seeds to be a special treat last year, but when I got ready to plant them in May, the back of the package said that they were best started from transplants and I thought, oh shoot, I missed the window for that. But this year, I remembered them and since I’ve been on a seed-starting frenzy, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, of course, and marigolds and nasturtiums which all came up quite quickly and nicely, I figured I can get these babies up and growing in time to put in the garden in May.  

 seed packet flowering kale

Flowering kale. I saw his photograph in a seed catalog and he was stunning. I have a feeling I’m going to fall in love. I’ll post some pictures when he begins to bloom.  In the meantime, feast your eyes on this: Icelandic Poppy.  

icelandic poppy

Be still my heart! It's hard to see in this photo, but his fuzzy buds look half prehistoric and half suggestive of the Venus flytrap. I don’t know what it is but it’s almost like this plant has a consciousness. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a beautiful plant.