Over the last seven years Chris Molyneux has been working on how to provide kale outside of the traditional season for the product in the UK. The kale season usually finishes by the mid to end of April each year and UK-grown kale is then not available until the end of June to early July. Here, Chris explains a bit more about this special kale variety and the benefits to the consumer.
Q. What is so special about your own ‘Spring Kale’?
A. It is a variety of curly leafed green kale that we bred ourselves, so no one else has it. In fact, because of the way we have naturally developed the new variety even each kale plant is in effect unique! It has taken us 7 years of trialling to develop our special kale. In addition, it is a variety that is ready in the traditional out of season months of kale, from mid to end of April through to the end of June, early July.
Q. Why did you develop this special variety?
A. We wanted to provide a kale to UK consumers during the traditional out of season period that ensures consumers don’t have to rely on imported varieties. Traditional varieties sown in the Spring take longer to grow because it is cooler – you can see on our site that we use ‘fleece’ to cover our young kale plants in the early Spring to protect them and help them grow more quickly. However, our variety is planted in the autumn and is ready to harvest by the end of April.
Q. What are the benefits of your kale to the consumer?
A. It provides a fresher, sweeter product because it can be harvested and available in the shops more quickly and because it’s locally produced, it reduces the number ‘food miles’; something to consider when we are all looking at ways of reducing our impact on the environment.
Q. How did you develop your own variety?
A. In simple terms, it has been quite a lengthy process over the last 7 years of naturally selecting and trialling different kale plants that would grow in the traditional out of season period. We have experience of doing this for our other products. Once we have plants that have the characteristics we want, we use the seed from those plants to grow more plants and so on.
Q. Are there any problems you’ve faced while developing or growing this new variety?
A. Not in particular, though it has taken a number of years of focused research to get the plants right. As the kale is sweeter we’ve also noticed that the rabbits and pigeons do enjoy it during the winter months when food is in short supply, so we can have a bit of a pest control problem!
Q. Are you planning on developing any more varieties that grow in the traditional out of season period?
A. Yes, we are currently working on a red kale variety and are also considering how we can do the same for Red Russian Kale and Cavalo Nero or Black Kale.