Curly kale (Brassica oleracea acephala) is a non-heading variety of cabbage with curly, crinkly leaves… but you’ve never seen kale leaves as curly as those of ‘Prizm’ F1, a new ultra-compact variety. Its medium green leaves are so dense and twisty turny you’re likely to mistake them for parsley (Petroselinum crispum crispum)!
Measuring only 15 inches (38 cm) high and 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) in diameter, ‘Prizm’ is short and compact, almost without a stem. If you space the plants only 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) apart, they’ll form a dense mass that weeds will have trouble penetrating. As ‘Prizm’ occupies little space in the garden, but offers as much material to munch on as a kale with leaves 3 times longer (curly leaves are simply condensed leaves, much like a deflated accordion: they contain as much edible tissue as a full-size leaf), it’s ideal for small gardens and container gardens. And since it is also highly ornamental, you could easily use it in a flowerbed as a border plant.
Easy to Grow
‘Prizm’ kale is a snap to grow. It prefers full sun, but will tolerate partial shade, and any garden soil that is well drained and at least moderately rich will do. Once it’s established, you’ll only need to water when the soil is really dry.
It’s very cold-tolerant (and indeed does best in cool-summer climates). In fact, leaves are at their tastiest in the fall, after they’ve been touched by frost.
For an early harvest, sow it indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before the expected date of the last frost. That will give a plant ready to harvest only 35 to 45 days after transplanting. You can acclimate it to outdoor conditions and plant it outdoors before the last frost, as it tolerates light frost well.
You can also sow it directly outdoors towards the last frost date for a harvest 50 and 60 days later. Sowing it outdoors has the advantage of protecting it somewhat from two of its enemies: imported cabbageworm and cabbage maggot, as their first generation — the one that causes the most damage — will already be over by the time the young kale plants are large enough to attract the attention of egg-laying adults.
A Continually Replenished Salad Bar
You don’t have to wait until ‘Prizm’ kale reaches its full size before you start to harvest. In fact, the best way to use this kale in the home garden is to think of it not as a crop you’ll harvest all at once at maturity, but rather as a continually replenished salad bar. Throughout the summer, collect a few leaves at a time from the base of the plant and it will simply produce new ones on top.
‘Prizm’ grows quickly enough to fit into a successive sowing program. As vegetables that ripen quickly like lettuce and spinach are harvested, sow ‘Prizm’ kale rather than leave their row empty. That will work well in cool summer climates. Where summers are hot, wait until the cooler days of fall before sowing it as a fall crop.
Healthy and Delicious
Like all kales, ‘Prizm’is very rich in antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and calcium, making it what is often called a “superfood”. And its flavor is excellent: a bit sweeter than most kales, with a somewhat nutty taste. It can be eaten raw or cooked and can, of course, pack extra nutrient punch into smoothies.
Where to Find It
Seeds of ‘Prizm’ kale are readily available by mail, notably from Park Seed and Jung Garden and Flower Seed Company in the United States and Veseys in Canada. In my area, several nurseries will be offering already started seedlings for planting out this spring. A few phone calls might reveal the same situation in your area, as it really is a stand-out plant that a lot of nurseries have taken notice of.
I couldn’t find a source for ‘Prizm’ kale in Europe (although if you can supply me with a source, I’ll gladly update this blog!), but gardeners there can easily order seeds from abroad.
(All photos are courtesy of All-America Selections).