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Harvesting Kale Flower Buds

how to harvest kale flower buds and blossoms

One of the best reasons to grow kale is that it produces a delightful extra edible: broccoli-like flower buds. Kale belongs to the Brassica (cabbage) family and it is a biennial, which means that it spends its first growing season developing a strong root system and leaves. In most climates it survives the winter (it needs a bit of protection in colder zones) and then it flowers and goes to seed in the second year. Right now all the kale in my garden is topped with a loose topknot of buds. I recently pinched some of the top buds back to encourage more to form at the leaf axils—the point where the leaves join the main stem. I’m also continuing to harvest the kale’s leaves, which we saute, roast, and puree in smoothies.

Sometimes the flower buds of brassicas are referred to as rabe or raab, which is derived from rapa and means turnip in Italian. Kale, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, turnips, bok choy, chinese cabbage, and broccoli rabe (pictured below) all produce delicious flower buds that absolutely deserve to be eaten instead of tossed into the compost pile. I harvest them when the buds are tightly packed, just ready to burst open, and flowering—they are delightful at every stage. The yellow blossoms taste like their parent plant, only sweeter with a floral undertone. We like to lightly steam rabe or saute it with garlic and olive oil and then finish it off with a squirt of lemon juice and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and sea salt. Yum!

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18 Responses to “Harvesting Kale Flower Buds”

  1. 1
    Lindsey @ NW Backyard Veggies Says:

    It continues to amaze me how much of a certain plant we can eat – and other things I would never think of eating turn out to be really good.

    Broccoli Raab is one of those things – it was nowhere and then it got popular and now it’s all over the place! And it’s SO GOOD, too. I’m a purest – I just saute in Olive oil with garlic and a little lemon. Easy. I don’t know if I’m man enough to make it into a smoothy – that might be beyond me!
    Lindsey @ NW Backyard Veggies´s last [type] ..Tips On How To Save Gas

  2. 2
    Marguerirte Says:

    I’m looking out my window at my rainy garden and all the Kale flower buds I can harvest… Yumm

    Good to see you today.

  3. 3
    Sheryl @ Flowery Prose Says:

    Love this post! I’m looking forward to growing several different brassica crops for the first time this summer!

  4. 4
    Daedre Says:

    Wow! I had no idea kale flowers looked like that!

  5. 5
    Andrea Says:

    I’ve been admiring the flowers on the Lacinato in my garden, wondering if they’d be bitter. Now I can’t wait to harvest them. Olive oil & garlic…Yum!

  6. 6
    Donata Thomas Says:

    My Kale has never made it this far! Thank you for the info. Love it!
    Donata Thomas´s last [type] ..On Braising Greens

  7. 7
    Joan Says:

    wow, I guess I’ll leave my kale in the ground longer next time!

  8. 8
    Mark Says:

    Blanched with oyster sauce. I am partial to Red Russian kale.

  9. 9
    Robin Says:

    My dragon kale which we have been harvesting all winter hasn’t flowered yet. Maybe I’ll wait a bit longer before pulling the plant to make room for spring crops.

  10. 10
    Claire Austen Says:

    My mother introduced me to Kale when I was a small child and I’ve always loved it so very much. She makes it with a little olive oil, lots of garlic and sea salt. It is SOOOOO good – I could eat it everyday and never get sick of it.
    Claire Austen´s last [type] ..Using Yoga And Meditation to Help Ease 3 Common Health Problems…

  11. 11
    Susan Says:

    I just discovered this by chance last week while I was cleaning out the vegetable beds. I now consider it one of my favorite vegetables. Thanks for the great post, and your blog is so good! I’ll be back.

  12. 12
    Donna Says:

    I was just looking at the kale flowers in my garden and wondering what to do about them. Thanks!

  13. 13
    Amber Says:

    Just wanted to let you know I really loved this post and I’ll be pinning this on pinterest!
    Amber´s last [type] ..Sugar Cookie Bars!

  14. 14
    Emily Says:

    I have some purple peacock broccoli that is starting to flower and looks just like this. I thought our over winter harvest was over. I think I’ll try sauteing them the way you recommend for lunch. Thank you!

  15. 15
    Chiot's Run Says:

    I was just thinking mine were about ready to harvest and can’t wait!

    This winter I found seeds for a variety that’s a cross between kale and broccoli – which means more buds. It’s called Purple Peacock – Can’t wait to see what it does!

  16. 16
    Estelle Says:

    And this is the reason I read gardening blogs like yours, thanks so much for sharing, I have plenty of flowers right now in my garden!
    Estelle´s last [type] ..Le jour où je suis devenue Américaine

  17. 17
    Matt Says:

    We have tons of kale going to flower so my wife decided we should be able to eat the buds. Frankly, I like it better than the greens. Very good.

  18. 18
    Matt H. Says:

    Man, I wish I knew this last year. My dad pulled out our kale plants, but I would’ve explicitly told him to leave them alone if I knew this. Thanks for the info, I’ll be sure to let them survive this year!

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