Kale is a popular vegetable these days. Everywhere you go, people are clucking about how good it is for you. I see it in salads in restaurants and who doesn’t like a little kale mixed in with their smoothies?
Cabbage and broccoli? Close cousins of kale, they are quite good for you, too. Oh and don’t forget one of the best of the family, cauliflower. I do love cauliflower.
They are all cole crops, as some old-timers refer to them. No, not cool crops, though they do grow best in cool weather, but cole crops. And they are good for you.
But have you ever grown them in your vegetable garden?
I have. At least, I’ve attempted to grow cabbage and broccoli. And let me tell you, they are a magnet for cabbageworms, those little green caterpillars that eat anything “cole” in your garden.
I don’t care how good of a gardener you are, if you plant kale, cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli, soon enough, lovely little white cabbage butterflies show up.
At first you think how sweet it is to see lovely little white butterflies flitting from cabbage to broccoli, from broccoli to kale, and then swooping over to the cauliflower. But then those white butterflies lay eggs around the base of the cole crops and those tiny little eggs hatch into little green worms and then before you can say the gardener’s cuss word, frass, those little green worms are eating your cole crops.
It happens every year. By the way, those white butterflies weren’t always here in North America flitting about our cole crops. They are actually from Europe and somehow found there way over to this side of the pond in the mid 1800s.
Growing cole crops hasn’t been the same since then.
So what should you do to get rid of the little green worms, the cabbageworms?
Well, back in the day, my dad used to dust a little something-something on the plants to kill the cabbageworms. But even doing that, I remember we still had to soak the broccoli in salt water and skim off the cabbageworms as they floated up to the surface. Then we’d still pick ever so carefully through the cooked broccoli, just in case one of those cabbageworms actually ended up being boiled to death and showed up on our dinner plate. And there was always one unlucky worm and one unlucky kid.
Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
If you insist on growing cole crops, you can cover them with row covers to keep the white cabbage butterflies from finding them and laying eggs at the base of the plants. I don’t find row covers to be particularly attractive but if you are intent on growing cole crops, row covers are a good option.
You can also watch the cole crops for the first signs of cabbageworms and then hand pick them off and feed them to the birds. I guarantee, though, you’ll never find them all.
Or you can do what I do and that is don’t show up for the Kale, Cabbage, Cauliflower, and Broccoli Club.
That’s right. I don’t grow kale, cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli in my garden because I don’t want to mess with the cabbageworms. Does that make me a coward? Perhaps, though the worms don’t scare me. I think it just shows I’m a smart gardener who has decided to get her protein from something other then cooked cabbageworms.
Though, if it adds a little extra protein in my smoothie? Maybe I will try to grow some kale. I’ll need some row covers…