NZ Lifestyle Block

6 things to know about growing cavolo nero


It goes by many names: black cabbage, pineapple cabbage, palm-leaf cabbage, Tuscan kale. It's sometimes referred to as kale's ‘tall dark Italian cousin.' Cavolo nero is a member of the brassica family and in NZ, we grow it for people and livestock, which has led to a wide variety of roadside kale-like crosses.

BRASSICAS are a promiscuou­s lot, interbreed­ing quite happily. If you want to save seeds, it's best to grow them as far as possible from each other in your garden.

THIS nutrient-rich vegetable is very hardy and gets sweeter after a frost.

I’VE seen a food writer refer to the leaves as having a bubblewrap texture. The leaves are very pretty, but the ‘bubbles' are great hiding places for critters. Wash thoroughly to flush them out.

THE unusual foliage cooks to an intense dark green. It needs a good 20 minutes of steaming or simmering to soften.

IF you pick it leaf by leaf, a cavolo nero plant will produce a steady supply of greens for up to six months. If you keep it going this long, look out for white butterfly caterpilla­rs that can quickly strip all the foliage off, leaving only the stalks behind.

CAVOLO nero can get quite tall so give it plenty of space. My son Theo (then aged 8) was dwarfed underneath the palm-like canopy of a friend's plant.

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