Sunday 23 October 2011

Cavolo Nero

One of my regular late Autumn / early Winter crops is Cavolo Nero, or Black Cabbage.

Since I don't have a lot of space I am usually restricted to 3 or 4 plants, squeezed in amongst my Sprouting Broccoli, but this is still enough to provide a decent crop for our needs. The Broccoli doesn't mature until the Spring, whereas the Cavolo Nero is mostly gone by Christmas. In the next photo you can clearly see the Cavolo Nero (on the left) dwarfed by the big Sprouting Broccoli (on the right), but about the same size as the plant in between them, which is one of the Sprouting Broccoli ones that nearly succumbed to the Cabbage Root Fly but subsequently recovered.

Cavolo Nero is really more of a kale than a cabbage, and is grown and used in much the same way. I sow mine, which is usually of the variety "Black Tuscany",  in the late Spring, transplant it in July and crop it from October to January. You normally harvest Cavolo Nero a few leaves at a time, rather than cutting the whole plant, though of course you can do that if you want to. If you pick only a few leaves - and not the little ones - more will grow. I suppose it depends whether you need the space for something else...

These leaves at the growing tip of the plant should be left a bit longer

These leaves are the ones to pick - not too small, but also not old, tough and tatty.
 Cavolo Nero is a perfect plant for the potager-style garden, since it is not only edible (and delicious) but also highly decorative. It's shape has often been likened to a plume of feathers.

At the other end of this bed is one of the Cavolo Nero plants that was also severely attacked by the Cabbage Root Fly. Although it is smaller, it seems to have recovered well.  The fly attack may turn out to have been a blessing in disguise, because it means that my Cavolo Nero will not all be ready at the same time.

This plant is still immature
Finally, a couple of my arty photos showing off the impressively "Savoyed" (crinkly) nature of the Cavolo Nero leaves. The young ones are quite green:

The more mature ones are a sort of blue-grey colour:

We'll be cooking with this vegetable soon, so watch this space...


  1. I love cavolo nero, I've been harvesting it for a while, yet it's still going strong.

  2. I can see why you suggested some of this for my potager...nice and structural. I will be cutting back the herbs and replacing some. I will definitely put some nastursiums in...and will think about the cavalo nero. Fabulous photos by the way.

  3. Hi Mark. I've never heard of this veg. Do you cook it like spinach? I'll watch your blog for your cooking/food porn pics and ideas.

  4. It is a very interesting looking vegetable. It is amazing the variety of vegetables in the brassica family - some great textures and colours for a lowly green vegetable.

  5. Fabulous photos! I can't get over how tall your sprouting broccoli plant is - just massive.

  6. Cavolo nero. That's one more new veggie you've introduced me to. Your raised bed with so many healthy veggies looks very good. Can't tell that there's been a fly attack.

  7. Cavolo nero has been a real star performer for me on my plot this year. I've been picking it since July. I really like the baby leaves in omlettes or pasta dishes. It has been pest free and no signs of it being affected by the club root on the site. The only problem is I planted too much. But this was my first year, hopefully I can achieve better value for space next year.

  8. I like the alternative name: 'palm tree kale'. In our house we also call it 'soup kale'. Laughably, some translations from the Italian call it 'red cabbage' presumably considered to be the nearest approximation!

  9. I was wondering what the best way to enjoy this vegetable. I have one growing but never harvested them. It has become just an ornamental in our garden.

  10. It's a beautiful plant, and yours look really healthy, but I am never quite convinced when I come to cook it...


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