How To Grow African Kale Is A Strange Topic For UK Gardeners. But Two Types Of African Kale Are Grown By Gardeners In Some Parts Of the UK. Here’s More About African Kales.

Ancestral Greens

African kale, of which there are several sorts, are related to our familiar curly kale and cabbage. These traditional varieties are grown extensively in countries like Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, where they’re a dietary staple.

African Kale Varieties

Fauza Gila, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons 
How To Grow African Kale

There are two main types of African kale, each with its own growing method:

  • Chomolia (mainly from Zimbabwe and Zambia). This variety boasts a shorter growing season and will even flower here in the UK, allowing you to collect seeds.
  • Covo. This powerhouse is a perennial that won’t set seed in our climate. but it’s easily propagated by taking cuttings. Covo grows tall and sturdy, resembling a “walking stick cabbage” or perennial kale.

Planting for Success

African kale thrives in well-draining soil with good fertility. Amending the bed with manure or green manure crops like vetch or clover beforehand is a great way to boost nitrogen.

Seeding Chomolia: Start chomolia seeds indoors in modules or trays during May. Transplant seedlings outdoors in June or July, spacing them 60-70cm (24-28in) apart in both directions.

Propagating Covo: Since covo doesn’t produce seed here, we rely on cuttings. Take 5-10cm (2-4in) long side shoots from a mature plant in July or August. Trim the stem back to a node and remove most leaves, leaving just 2-3 small ones. Plant five cuttings per 15cm (6in) pot filled with a mixture of cutting compost, leaf mould, and sand. Keep the pot warm, ideally with bottom heat, until roots develop. Once rooted, transfer each cutting to its own pot with regular potting compost. Grow them on until spring before transplanting them to their final positions in the garden. Because they grow large, space covo plants 1m (3ft) apart.

Kale Cultivation

Once established, both chomolia and covo become perennial bushes, allowing you to harvest leaves throughout the season.

Pests Of African Kales

African kale isn’t immune to the usual brassica troubles. Here’s what to watch out for:

Young Plants.  Pigeons can find these tender greens irresistible, so protect young plants with netting.

Aphids.  Especially during dry spells (from August onwards), cabbage aphids may become a problem. Look for signs of infestation and use organic controls like insecticidal soap if necessary.

Clubroot.  To avoid this fungal disease, avoid planting kale in areas where brassicas have excited problems in the past.

Harvesting and Enjoying

The leaves of both chomolia and covo can be harvested whenever you need them. They’ll keep for a few days in a fridge or other cool conditions. Covo, with its extended growing season, provides a continuous supply of leaves.

African Kale Recipe

Traditionally, African kale leaves are cooked in a peanut butter sauce and enjoyed alongside “sadza,” a cornmeal porridge. Why not give this delicious dish a try with your homegrown kale?

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Image Attribution: Fauza GilaCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tag: How To Grow African Kale

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