Cultivated sea kale arrives on the menu

Sea kale

Sea kale is difficult to grow and therefore price restrictive

Sea kale The bulk harvest
The growing season is January to March

Home-grown sea kale is set to follow new season asparagus in its level of popularity in top UK restaurants

Like a lot of the products seeing a resurgence in chefs’ kitchens, sea kale was originally big news to the Victorians and a regular in household gardens.

Naturally occurring in the summer months along the south coast of England, as well as the coasts in East Anglia, Cumbria, north Wales and south-west Scotland, over the last 10 years sea kale has been cultivated in the early months of the year by a very small number of growers. Now, an increase in growers in early 2014 has led to an uplift in demand. 

Sea kale profile

Latin name: Crambe maritima.

Production: In its wild form, sea kale grows immersed in seawater where there’s an underlying layer of shingle. On a commercial scale, its production is forced in a similar way to rhubarb – grown in dark growing sheds with the soil piled up around the roots, which gives its blanched green, almost white colour that is now distinctive of the cultivated type. Sea kale is difficult to grow and is therefore price restrictive to top-end catering.

Key growers: Westland Nurseries, Worcestershire; Eassie Farms, Angus; The Modern Salad Grower, Cornwall.

Cultivated season: January to March.

Flavour: It has a distinctive taste akin to asparagus and has the elements of young celery leaves.

Chef fans: Tom Kitchen and Raymond Blanc.

Why chef’s like it: It’s considered a delicacy and has a unique flavour. It’s tipped to be the new asparagus.

How it’s being used: Cooked like asparagus and served with hollandaise. Fried in butter as an accompaniment or appetizer. Served with red mullet and sole and as tempura.

Extra info: Wild sea kale is protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act and must not be picked without permission from the landowner.

Upcoming trend: Sea kale flowers.

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