Cottagers Kale


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Tall plants with frilly leaves coloured with a mix of purple and green.


Brassica oleracea

A heritage variety of kale that has been around for over 150 years.

The plants grow quite tall and are coloured with a mix of purple and green. Leaf edges are frilly, though less than those of curly kales. Not only are the leaves edible, but tender shoots eventually sprout from the stems, adding value to a versatile vegetable.

Approximate number of seeds per pack: 50





Additional information

Name and origin

Historically, this variety of kale has been named either Cottager’s Kale or Cottagers’ Kale, i.e., as either a singular or plural possessive coupled with the vegetable name ‘kale’. In contrast, our seed supplier calls it simply Cottagers, using neither of the possessive forms nor the name ‘kale’. We’ve compromised and decided that we will sell it as Cottagers Kale (even though we feel there should be an apostrophe somewhere in Cottagers).
A good account of the origin and development of Cottager’s Kale (sic) is given in The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette for 1858, pages 127 to 128 – it can be found online in the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Apparently, common kale and Brussels sprouts were initially crossed, the product of which was then crossed with purple broccoli.


In our 2023 trial of Cottagers Kale, noticeable plant-to-plant differences were observed in the heights of the plants; measured in November they varied from about 60 to 100 cm. Likewise, the degree to which the leaf edges displayed frilliness also differed among the plants. And though all the plants were a mix of purple and green, the stem, leaf and vein colourations (both the proportion and shade of the two colours) were not the same for each individual.
In The Gardiners’ Chronicle and Agriculture Gazette for 1860 (See Darwin Online: Darwin, C. R. 1860. Cross-bred plants. Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette no. 3 (( 21 January)): page 49.), Charles Darwin reported that the plants of Cottagers’ Kale (sic) he grew were ‘far from presenting a uniform appearance’. He later reiterated this variability in his 1868 book The variation of animals and plants under domestication. (See Darwin Online: Darwin, C. R. 1868. The variation of animals and plants under domestication. London: John Murray. First edition, first issue. Volume 1, page 324).
Variations were also noted in 1909, when Thompson’s Gardener’s Assistant described the plants as having ‘leaves plain or curled, some green, others purplish green’. In 1948, Charles Oldham (in Brassica Crops and Allied Cruciferous Crops) described Cottager’s Kale (sic) as having variable characters, explaining that the stems, shoots and leaves vary from purple to green. He also stated that fully-grown plants are from 24 to 36 inches tall (about the same variation in height that we measured).
So, not much has changed in Cottagers Kale for over 150 years, and we are not the first to observe differences among the plants. The variation in plants, however, is not a deal breaker, and shouldn’t affect the enjoyment of the crop.