Variety Spotlight: White Russian Kale

This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

I love to experiment and try new varieties in the garden. Some are duds, some are merely mediocre, but occasionally I discover something really outstanding. Today’s Spotlight is on a variety of open-pollinated kale that I think is pretty extraordinary. It’s called White Russian, and it was bred by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seeds. This is my second year growing it, and it has quickly become one of my favorites.

White Russian kale

White Russian kale

White Russian looks like a white-ribbed version of Red Russian kale. That’s no accident, since Red Russian is one of its ancestors. White Russian is a selection from the Wild Garden Seeds gene pool that resulted from a cross between the Brassica napus ‘Red Russian’ and ‘Siberian’ kales back in 1984. That gene pool is sold as the Wild Garden Kale Mix, and I did a variety spotlight on it last fall. Unlike the mix however, the plants of White Russian are uniform in size and shape. Compared to its parents, the leaves seem to be more like Red Russian, and are flatter and less frilly than Siberian.

young White Russian kale plant

young White Russian kale plant

In the garden, White Russian has been easy to grow for me, and has done well in both spring and fall plantings. Our last winter here was about normal in terms of temperatures and snowfall, and half of my White Russian plants survived unprotected in the main garden area. Mind you, they look a little rough around the edges, but they are alive and making new growth. I planted another group last November that was protected by a cold frame, and you can see in the below photo it was unfazed by our cold winter weather. It gets about two feet tall at maturity, and the plants are tolerant of both cold temperatures and wet soils, which pretty much describes our winters here!

leaf of White Russian kale

leaf of White Russian kale

But it’s in the kitchen where I think White Russian really shines. High Mowing Seeds listing says it was “voted the best-tasting in our taste tests”, and my wife and I have been giving it two-thumbs up every time we eat it. Like most kale, it’s the sweetest in cold weather, but last year my spring planting matured after the weather turned hot and the flavor stayed mild even then. It’s even better tasting after a few frosts or freezes.

harvest of White Russian kale

harvest of White Russian kale

We’ve enjoyed White Russian kale lightly braised or sauteed for a simple side dish, and paired with potatoes in Kale and Potato Hash. I think it’s also a great candidate for a Massaged Kale Salad.

Kale and Potato Hash with White Russian kale

Kale and Potato Hash with White Russian kale

I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a kale that is a real survivor in my garden and a favorite in the Happy Acres kitchen. Seeds for White Russian kale are available from a number of sources in the U.S. including Wild Garden Seeds, Territorial Seed and High Mowing Seeds. I’ll be back soon with another variety.

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8 Responses to Variety Spotlight: White Russian Kale

  1. Michelle says:

    It is a beautiful kale. I like that it isn’t frilly because in my mild winter climate the aphids love to take up residence in frilly leaves for the duration generally making kale disgustingly inedible by spring. I’ll have to consider it for next year. I have to resist the temptation to try it this year, really, I must…

  2. Sue Garrett says:

    I like the look of the leaves on that kale but I have never heard of white Russian kale. I wonder whether it is available here.

  3. Margaret says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more – I tried White Russian for the 1st time last year and was so impressed! I even liked it more the Red Russian, which I thought would be fairly hard to beat.

  4. Susie says:

    I grew white kale a couple of years ago and found it very similar to red russian kale – both of which I enjoyed very much. Unfortunately, I had planted it in a poor location and did not get much of it. I’ve got a few new kale varieties this year but no white – will likely rotate it into the mix next year. Love that hash dish!

  5. Dirk Zhang says:

    Hi Dave: Thanks for sharing. I’ve grown White Russian Kale for a few seasons here in zone 6b/7a metro Philadelphia. They could overwinter in my backyard successfully without any protection. And they’ll come back in Spring to give us the earliest vegetables available. They are very tender even after they went to bolting stage. Have you ever tried the flat-leaf Siberian Kale? I heard it has similar features as the White Russian Kale.

    • Dave @ HappyAcres says:

      My White Russian plants survived our winter last year without protection, and we got more leaves this spring plus the rapini when they bloomed. I grow a True Siberian kale in the greenhouse every winter, and it does quite well for me there.

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