Sea Kale, a cruciferous plant, crambe mari-tima (Gr. , a kind of cabbage), which grows upon the western coasts of Europe and on the Baltic and Black seas, and has long been cultivated in European gardens. Sea kale is a perennial with a long fleshy root; the root leaves are roundish, 6 to 12 in. across, thick, wavy, and often lobed on the margin, and of a peculiar grayish green; the flower stalk is 2 to 4 ft. high, branching, and bears loose panicles of white flowers which have a strong odor of honey; the pod, about the size and shape of a cherry stone, contains but one seed. The wild plant has long been used as a pot herb, and was eaten by the ancient Romans; its cultivation in England dates back a little more than 100 years; it is now held in high esteem there, and is cultivated for market. In this country it is almost unknown, even in private gardens. Those who live upon the shores where it grows wild cook the leaf stalks and midribs of the leaves, after peeling them; but when cultivated it is so managed that the buds as they push shall be blanched, and the edible portion is the tender, undeveloped leaves.
The plant is raised from seeds, the seedlings remaining a year in the seed bed, or from cuttings, 2 to 4 in. long, of the roots of old plants, started in spring on a hotbed. Either year-old seedlings or plants from cuttings are set out in well enriched soil, 2 ft. apart, and the rows 3 ft. distant. On the approach of winter the plants are covered with 8 or 10 in. of sand or leaf mould, so that the shoots in forcing their way up through this in spring will be blanched and tender; when the tip of the shoot reaches the surface the blanching material is drawn away and the shoot cut at its junction with the root. In England, one method of blanching is to use pots or cylinders of earthenware, taller in proportion than flower pots, or wooden boxes. By surrounding the pots with fermenting manure the plant may be forced.
Sea Kale (Crambe maritima). Blanched Young Shoots.