Sea kale: What’s that sticking out of your thong?

Sea kale has a rather remarkable ability to re-sprout from its roots.  One of the popular ways of propagating sea kale relies on this tendency.  Sea kale root cuttings, or “thongs” as they are commonly described, provide a fast-growing clone of the parent plant without all the fuss of starting from seed.

Until recently, I wasn’t sure of exactly what goes on with those thongs under cover of soil.  I knew that planting them a few inches deep would eventually result in a new plant, but what happened between planting and plant was a mystery.  To satisfy my curiosity, I dug a few up this year and all looked much like this:

Sea kale thong dug in late April

In every case, the segment of root has swelled at the thicker end and sprouted.  You can see that this one is just getting started.

In the past, I have planted thongs about two inches deep without much regard for orientation.  Now that I have seen that sprouting happens very near the cut at the thicker end, I think that it makes sense to try to plant the thongs more vertically, with the thicker or cut end near the surface.  Really, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since that is how the root was positioned on the original plant.

At any rate, this should serve to bolster the confidence of those of you who have expressed doubts about your rather dull-looking packet of sea kale thongs.

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