6 Best Types of Kale to Grow in Your Garden

Find the perfect kale varieties to grow for all your favorite recipes.

close up of curly leaf kale in a garden

Brie Williams

Kale has become very popular over the last couple of years, and it’s super simple to grow in the garden. It’s also easy to add this nutritional powerhouse to all sorts of recipes, from smoothies to kale chips. However, there are several types of kale to choose from, and some are tastier for eating than others. A few are even tender enough to eat raw. Here are six of the best types of kale to grow in your garden, so you can have a fresh supply of this leafy green to use in your kitchen.

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Ornamental Kale

close up of purple kale

Laurie Black

You’ve probably seen this type of kale used in fall containers and gardens for decoration, so you might think it isn’t for eating. The texture is a bit tough, but ornamental or flowering kale is indeed edible. This type is one of the most beautiful in the kale family, with colors ranging from purple, pink, magenta, and white. The leaves form a rosette pattern and look stunning when planted with other popular autumn plants like mums and ornamental peppers. It also makes a pretty garnish on a platter.

02 of 06

Lacinato Kale

close up of dark green kale

Peter Krumhardt

This type of kale is also called ‘Tuscan’ kale because it was bred in Italy, or dinosaur kale because of its crinkled, almost rubbery-looking texture that is similar to a reptile. The leaves are dark, bluish-green, and very slender with no curl. It resembles savoy cabbage in its shape, but not color. This variety is often called for in Italian recipes.

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Common Curly Kale

close up of curly leaf kale in a garden

Brie Williams

This is the type of kale you’re likely to find in the grocery store. Typically, it’s deep green with very frilly edges. It is often used in salads, soups, sautéed, or put in smoothies. A popular variety to grow is ‘Dwarf Blue Curled Vates’, which gets about 12 inches tall and matures in about 55 days. 

04 of 06

Siberian Kale

close up of curly leaf kale

Michael Hanson

The blue-green leaves are ruffled on the edges, similar to curly leaf parsley. It’s not often found in grocery stores, but it’s one of the best types of kale for a raw salad because of its tender texture and low bitterness. Frost sweetens and improves the flavor of this kale type, which is extremely cold-tolerant. A popular variety is called ‘Dwarf Siberian’, which gets about 16 inches tall and reaches maturity in about 50 days from sowing.

05 of 06

Chinese Kale

close up of Chinese broccoli

Brie Passano

Though it’s also known as gai lan or Chinese broccoli, this plant is still part of the kale family. The leaves are flat, glossy, and blue-green. The stalks of Chinese kale are thick like asparagus, but have a very sweet flavor. The dark, shiny leaves have a bitter, more earthy flavor. This variety is delicious when steamed, mixed into a stir-fry, or added to Asian-inspired soups.

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Red Russian Kale

red russian kale growing with begonias and dusty miller

Carson Downing

This is an heirloom type of kale that looks a little like large blue-green oak tree leaves with a tinge of red or purple. In cold weather, the red gets more intense, but when cooked, the leaves turn completely green. This type is the hardiest of all the kales as it originally came from Siberia and was brought to Canada by Russian traders in the late 1800s. The leaves have a very mild, sweet flavor, making them an excellent choice for salads. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is baby kale?

    Baby kale is just leaves that have not reached full maturity. They are picked early in the growing process and make delicious salads, especially when mixed with other greens such as romaine, butter, or iceberg lettuce.

  • What are some of the best ways to eat kale?

    If kale is new to your garden and diet, the easiest way to incorporate it into your dinner plans is by making soup or salad. Cooking kale breaks down the fibrous structure of the leaves. Try it in this Danish Green Kale Soup or Sausage and White Bean Stew with Kale. If you want to eat it raw in a salad, cut it thinly and massage the leaves with a bit of olive oil. This will break up the fibers and make them much more tender.

  • Which types of kale are best for eating raw?

    Siberian kale would be the best selection to eat raw, but common curly and ‘Red Russian’ are also excellent choices for salads and other uncooked applications.

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