Real Men Sow

The Story of a Daubenton Perennial Kale, Part 1


I’ve been banging on about my love for kale since the very beginning of Real Men Sow. All hail curly kale!, I announced back in February 2011 after harvesting 42 leaves in the middle of winter. I love kale, and have grown various forms since then, including dwarf curly, normal curly, purple kale and the sweeter cavolo nero.

So when Alison from Backyard Larder very kindly offered me another variety, I was delighted to snap up the chance – especially as this particular type of kale is a perennial plant…

A perennial kale? That grows back every year? How could I refuse?

According to the Backyard Larder website, Daubenton Kale ‘…forms an attractive shrubby mound of mild and nutty-flavoured leaves’, and named after the French naturalist Louis Jean-Marie Daubenton. It’s hardy, tolerating temperatures down to about -15°c and whilst ideally planted in full sun, the plant is tolerant of some shade and will crop adequately in a wide range of soil conditions.

The plant grows 3-4ft (90-120cm) high and 4-5ft (120-150cm) wide, and can be harvested all the year round.

It is this hardiness that has always attracted me to kale. When the weather is cold and grotty and harvests are tough to find, kale always comes up trumps. The plant is a fighter, warding off the very worst of the weather and providing fresh leaves in even the toughest of winters.

Impressive Resilience
And it is this resilience that has impressed me about the Daubenton kale, albeit for somewhat different reasons…

The plant arrived very well packed by the BL team; well protected, moist and ready to be planted out. It was happy to wait a few days in the newspaper wrapping before going into the ground, which I duly did the following weekend. However, there have been adversaries keen to see this little seedling’s lifespan greatly reduced.

Puppies and Pigeons
First off, was an unexpected attack by my mum’s puppy, Charlie. Now, I’ve never known any dogs that enjoy brassicas in their diet, but Charlie appears to be the exception. Within days of the kale being planted out, Charlie decided his bowl of food wasn’t enough and chomped through the leaves. I pondered how to break the news to Alison.

‘I’m really sorry about that plant you so kindly sent me. The dog ate it.’

I felt like I was at school again, fibbing about my homework. Alison was certainly not going to believe that one. There’s nothing worse than something thinking you haven’t taken good care of their plant!

However, something amazing happened over the next few weeks. The plant grew back, and it grew back well. Panic over! Except it took another pasting, this time courtesy of the massive (and I mean massive) pigeons that inhabit my garden. Once again, the poor Daubenton was taken down to the ground, along with all the other brassicas in my garden.

But again, this little miracle plant fought back. The great news is that now it is starting to really enjoy itself. Having resisted puppies and pigeons, the plant is beginning to grow out, and this is what has impressed me most so far. It is tough and resilient, and despite a slow and tricky start, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Daubenton kale grows and yields.

Watch this space…

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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