Garden Lifestyle

Grow a 7-foot-tall Vegetable

What vegetable looks a little like a palm tree, can grow 7-feet tall in one season, and has a stem so strong it can be used as a baseball bat?

This ornamental vegetable has edible leaves and an extremely sturdy stem.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

If you’d like to grow something in your garden that’s sure to be a conversation piece, you might want to give Brassica oleracea longata a try. This vegetable is sure to pique the curiosity of neighbors once it starts growing its stout stem topped with edible, cabbage-like leaves.

Walking Stick kale, also known as Jersey Kale, looks a little like a palm tree and has stems that can dry and harden to use as walking sticks.

I received a packet of seeds as a gift from a visitor to Lexington, Va., where a walking stick made from one of these plants is on display at Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s home. Apparently he purchased the walking stick during a trip to Europe in the 1850s.

Walking stick kale has been around a long time. It’s been cultivated on the Isle of Jersey for hundreds of years where the sturdy stems are used as beams to support thatched roofs and the leaves serve as feed for local livestock.

I started this novelty vegetable indoors earlier this year and the weather is almost warm enough for me to transplant it into the garden. I’ll need to make sure I give it plenty of room to grow. I’ve read plants can grow 3-4 feet wide and up to 7-feet tall. I’ll also need to make sure I have a sturdy 2 x 2 board to use as a support and to train it so the stem grows straight.

I’m not sure if I can get the walking stick to grow 7 feet tall in my Zone 5 garden or if it will overwinter for a second year, when it’s supposed to grow even taller. But I’m going to give it a try and will report back on its progress later this season.

Have you ever grown walking stick kale? If so, please post your growing tips and photos here.

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