Brassica oleracea var acephala
Crazy but true – this plant gives you edible leaves for several years and then a stalk which you can varnish and turn into a walking stick!
Also known as Jersey Cabbage, this heirloom variety hails from the Channel Islands and has been selected since at least the early 1800s (and probably long before that) to have an extra long stem. It was once grown in every Jersey garden, and also formed part of a thriving cottage industry. At the end of the 20th century 30,000 walking sticks were produced there every year. Now there is only one small scale producer left. Producing the sticks is not for the impatient – the stalks must be dried for up to 2 years then sanded and varnished. They can also be used for fencing or even roof rafters for small buildings!
Walking Stick Kale grows like regular kale – in full sun in fertile soil – but if you want to harvest the stalks it’s best to keep stripping the leaves regularly to keep the stalks straight, and they will also need staking in windy spots. Tougher leaves can be fed to rabbits, cows or sheep (in fact according to the 1835 edition of the Gardener’s Dictionary, 60 plants will feed one cow for a whole year!). Softer leaves can be used as you would any other kale. Leaves were previously also used as a protective wrap for cheese and butter! This kale grows to a height of over 2 metres – this photo of Gigs who is 6’3” tall plus 9 year old Eliza on his shoulders will give you some idea of the height of this 18 month old plant! A fun plant for the kids to grow.
Certified organic plant. Available in 9cm or 11cm pot.
Freight: Lowest freight rate is currently $13.50 for one to nine 9cm pots to an urban address. Further charges apply for larger orders, larger plants, or rural addresses. For more info please see our full list of freight and packing charges. Please note that due to the size of the walking stick kale plants in 11cm pots they are treated as trees for freight purposes.
Main photos and potted plant – Kahikatea Farm
Photo of walking sticks: commons.wikimedia.com