Grow Your Own Tuscan Kale

Plant now to fill your fall with the tasty leaves of this Italian heirloom. 

Story by Gene B. Bussell
Grow Tuscan Kale
Got kale? These greens offer more calcium per calorie than milk does.
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Tuscan kale has lots of names. It's also called dinosaur kale, black palm, Italian kale, and Tuscan cabbage. With that many titles, it has to be loved—and for good reason. It's easy to grow in the garden and is delicious as well as versatile in the kitchen. Its textured, blue-green leaves are great in salads, stews, pastas, and casseroles. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.

Though it originally hails from Italy, it has been grown in the South for centuries. Thomas Jefferson had it at Monticello, and you can grow it in your own backyard. Buy transplants for a quick start. If you plan to plant a lot of rows, use seeds, which are budget friendly. In smaller spaces, grow it in a container. Or use it as an ornamental—its beautiful foliage pairs nicely with violas. Look for plants at your local nursery, or order seeds online from territorialseed.com or monticelloshop.org.

Tuscan kale loves the sun. It grows best in rich soil that's been amended with organic matter. Good soil will feed your plants. You can also supplement with an organic fertilizer. Water your kale moderately and consistently. Cut leaves as they're needed. If you want just a little, use a small knife or pop off single leaves by hand, gathering from the bottom of the plant and working your way up. (This way, the plant keeps growing for future use.) If you need a lot, harvest the whole plant. Wash thoroughly before eating. Tuscan kale thrives in cold weather, and the leaves will be even sweeter after the first frost.