Kalettes grow like Brussels sprouts

So, this Brussels sprout walks into a bar and meets a kale. The result: Kalettes!

A natural cross between Brussels sprouts and kale, Kalettes™ grow on a tall stalk, just like Brussels sprouts. Instead of tiny cabbages, the plant forms open 2″ rosettes that resemble green and purple flowers. Johnny’s Selected Seeds started offering Kalettes seed last fall, and three varieties are featured in their 2015 catalog.

Although the harvest timeframe is similar to Brussels sprouts, Kalettes take a bit longer to mature, ranging from 110 to 138 days, depending on the variety.

How do they taste? The flavor is said to be a mild, sweet-nutty flavor that gets even better with cold weather. They’re deliciuos sauteed, lightly steamed, roasted or raw.

The key to success with these funky vegetables is planting at the right time. Johnny’s recommends starting seeds indoors, about four to six weeks before setting them outside. “Kalettes grow best in cooler weather, especially when forming florets, but will perform well in areas with mild summer weather prior to floret formation,” says Steve Bellavia, product technician at Johnny’s. “In areas with hot summers, the crop can be transplanted into the garden in late summer for successful fall, winter and spring harvest.”

For instance, growers in the north should plant in mid-May and harvest in late fall. Meanwhile, southern gardeners should transplant in September for an early winter harvest. The key is to get the seedlings in the ground early enough so that the plants are 2 to 3 feet tall before the onset of cold weather and low light levels, which is similar to growing Brussels sprouts. It’s similar. Average yield is about a half-pound per plant.

Gardeners who have compact gardens or raised beds might balk at the space required by this long-growing crop. The plants should be spaced about 18″ apart — just one plant per square foot if you’re using the square-foot method. To make the most of the space, plant a spring crop of lettuce or spinach around the Kalettes. Or, tuck a Kalettes seedling into an existing plot of greens. Once the greens have been harvested, the Kalettes can occupy a larger footprint.