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Brussels sprouts and kale from the garden


Photo: Brussel sprouts

Photo: Brussel sprouts

Danny adores Brussels sprouts. He’s always buying little packs of them and squirreling them into the fridge. Then I have to eat them. And I don’t like them apart from creamed sprouts which are a bit figure challenging.

So I decided to grow some Bedford Fillbasket this year. Surely they’d be better than the commercially grown ones? They look great too, tall and statuesque. Inca walks between them and disappears in the mini forest.

I plucked the first sprouts a couple of days ago and they were tasty. Much sweeter and crisper than the ones in packs. In fact I even asked for more.

The kale experience was a different story. Having expected these to be good we munched in shocked silence. I harvested two varieties. A pretty curly kale – Frosty – which was fine with a delicate flavour. The offending beast was a dark green bobbly kale (Black Tuscany) -bitter and leathery and reminiscent of eating a handful of old bay leaves. I’d removed the stalks and simmered it for over 10 minutes.

I woke at 4 am and thought of our rows of beautiful kale plants. In Italy these are often grown in herbaceous borders. In the end would ours just be ornamental after all? As we have a lot of Black Tuscany plants to chomp through this winter I fired up the laptop to look for an answer.

I discovered that kale gets sweeter after the first frosts (someone even suggested that putting it in the freezer overnight to simulate this process). Kale also needs to be eaten really fresh as it gets more bitter the older it is. Ours had been picked and cooked within minutes. By 5am I’d seen videos on sautéing kale, making kale chips, incorporating kale into numerous recipes but still wasn’t convinced.

Does anyone out there have suggestions for making kale a bit more palatable? Or is Black Tuscany just a particularly bitter variety.

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  1. Brussel Sprouts are delicious pureed with milk, butter and parsley.

  2. Kale is good added to fried onion and apple. Steam the kale till it wilts slightly first. Also add it to potato and chorizo to make a hash.

    Brussle sprouts are lovely roasted with pine nuts in honey and then sprinkled with a little balsamic vinegar after cooking.

  3. Brussels sprouts are also very good with chestnuts.

    For salad we eat Red Russian kale, which is very sweet after it has stood in winter weather for a while.

  4. I steam my kale and then stir fry it with bacon, garlic, ginger and chillies – even my husband who doesn’t do brasiccas loves it. I’ve never done it with that variety though so I don’t know how well it would work.

  5. And B. sprouts are a revelation when they’re shredded finely and sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and whole or halved hazelnuts.

  6. Your previous commentors have made great suggestions with kale.

    I don’t eat bacon, but its smokiness will transform the bitterness in the kale.

    I use lots of garlic and find its earthy depth — with lemon and olive oil splashed on at the end — makes kale come alive.

    If you can’t make it work for you, chopping it up very fine and adding it to soups when you add carrots and onions will make your soups wonderful. It’s my must-have ingredient in soups.

    I would only steam kale if it was baby kale in the spring. I’d rather stew it for a long time — sweet after a frost or strong before the frost.

  7. Hi Fiona, I love the Black Kale, unfortunately so do the caterpillars. I love it chopped up and stirfried. Start by frying a bit of chopped bacon and some onions and then the kale. You could also add some potatoes(actually these will need to be partially cooked first) a bit of garlic and some oregano. YUM!!! Also throw it into other stir fries and into soups. Have you can stir fry chopped Kale in a little olive oil along with some onions and garlic and then toss into your fav fritter batter. Try it stirfried and add to pasta with other veggies. I can’t say I eat it on it’s own, but added to the mix it is lovely.

  8. My husband loves sprouts. I don’t, I’m afraid – so I’m glad our vegetable garden is too small to grow them! 😀 (I do buy them for him occasionally, just to be kind.)

    By the way, I’m having trouble registering with your forum – the password email isn’t getting to me.

  9. denisebc

    Have you tried roasted brussel sprouts? Cut the large ones in half and roast them in the oven with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. They shrink to half their size but they come out tasting nutty and wonderful. I never liked sprouts until I had them this way.

  10. magic cochin

    I grow Tuscan kale but tend to use it in the summer when it’s probably more tender. I’ve just checked in a little book I bought in Tuscany ‘Le Ricette di Mamma Toscana’ and the recipe for Cavolo Nero with bread slices instructs you to boil the kale leaves for about an hour (!!!) before serving on toast drizzled with olive oil. I think there’s a clue there!

    In Tuscany I’ve only ever come across it in a slow cooked bean soup – the really thick sort served with chopped raw red onion and olive oil.

    By the way, one of our favourite ways of using sprouts is in a vegetable curry. They are transformed by the addition of creamed coconut, spices and slow cooking – try it, you’ll be amazed! (Not my idea, I borrowed it from an aclaimed Gujerati restaurant in north London).


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