Interview by Aubregyn V. Ancheta (with plant information source

Ornamental Cabbage or flowering kales are slowly becoming known for their unique beauty and fancy colors. They look and grow very much like their relatives, edible cabbages and kale.

They belong to Brassicas family and are edible for both humans and animals, but their taste is not what you would expect it to be. Marie Iannotti, author of the article “Grow Ornamental Cabbage and Flowering Kale,” states, “They have been bred for looks, not flavor.” Colors range from light green to dark green or purple, like traditional kales and cabbages. Iannotti adds, “The leaves of ornamental cabbages and flowering kale have been hybridized to feature rosy and creamy white colors, making them look more like compact wreaths or large flowers than vegetables.”

Marlyn Atiwag proudly showing her freshly picked flowering kales (Kamome series, Red and White).

During the early cropping seasons of 2017, some farmers in Benguet started growing this plant and their efforts were featured in different media outlets. Mrs. Marlyn Atiwag of Atok, Benguet has been growing different types of flowers for a long time. She tried planting flowering kale out of curiosity; she knew that the plants existed in the flower markets but had not yet tried planting them on her own land. She tried the Kamome Series from Known You Seeds Philippines, attended and assisted by Jonathan Doctor, who was assigned as marketing technician in the area.

Doctor convinced Atiwag to try the available colors of red, pink, and white. Flowering kales were being sold in the market for P100 to P150 per piece during peak months. She hoped for her crop to succeed so she could have an additional source of income after she sold her Lisianthus flowers.

She planted the flowering kales in mid-August 2017 and harvested the blooms in the first week of December. The plants took 4-5 months to reach maturity. According to Iannotti, “…when it comes to cultivation and plant management, they are like regular cabbage and kale. They are cool-season plants, although you can plant them at any time, and both ornamental cabbage and kale will grow approximately 18 inches tall and wide.”

In addition, “They will do fine in either full sun or partial shade…Both cabbages and kale prefer a slightly acidic soil pH of about 5.8 – 6.5. They like to dry out slightly between watering but will suffer stress if left dry for prolonged periods.”

Iannotti continues, “It’s the leaves that provide the ‘flowers’ in ornamental cabbages and kale, so there is not waiting for them to bloom (sic)…Flowering kales look especially good in a large planting, where their color really stands out.”

She notes, “Ornamental cabbages and kale can last throughout the cold season, but their appearance depends a lot on the weather. Too hot and they will bolt to seed, too wet and harsh and they’ll look tattered. But since most pests are scarce in the cooler months, there aren’t too many problems to look out for.”

Atiwag gathered her friends and other fellow farmers to show them the results of her planting of flowering kales. She eagerly shared her experience with growing the kales, adding that she failed to harvest the flowers for two weeks due to her busy schedule—attending to her clients’ orders and managing her greenhouses—but she was amazed that the flowers still looked good and the colors remained vibrant.

She was able to sell her flowers during the peak season in December. She is definitely going to grow more flowering kales this year!

Flowering Kales Kamome Series Red, Pink, and White are products of Known You Seed Philippines, Inc. For inquiries and orders, call 0917.320.1689 (Globe) or 0999.968.0630 (Smart and Sun), fax (075) 632.1785, or email kyp@knownyou.com. “Like” the company on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kyp168.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s March 2018 issue.