So, you want to grow napini kale.
This sweet and mild vegetable makes a good salad and is plenty nutritious for you- as you’d expect with kale.
Thankfully, it’s very simple to grow. Any beginner should be able to pick it up even as their first garden plant.
Napini kale is a hardy plant that can tolerate cold temperatures and will produce harvestable produce within 2 years from seed.
If you’re looking to grow your own organic kale, this is a good choice due to the easy learning curve.
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Last updated: 11/10/21.
What’s napini kale?
Napini is a kale type known as “kale rabe.”
Napini gets its name from the stems that bud from the plant before they’re harvested for consumption.
This variant has a distinct look from other kale such as broccoli kale, even though the two types are often confused. The stems and leaves are different in napini variations.
Kale is a hardy plant that’s dormant in the winter and comes back in the spring. The plant will bolt when the temperatures rise and that’s the time to harvest.
When you see the flowers, this is when the plant distributes seeds and should be harvested before then. If you see the flowers, it’s often too late to get quality kale.
The buds that come up during the second spring can be harvested and consumed the same way you eat broccoli kale.
Kale is a biennial plant which means that when planted in the summer or fall, the first season produces no flowers.
The first season will only produce flowers. The stalks come when the plant bolts in the spring during the second season.
Kale can be harvested right when it bolts.
Napini variants have a sweet aftertaste and are milder than broccoli rabe. The plant can handle cold temperatures well and can be overwintered to produce edible shoots next spring.
Napini kale can tolerate temperatures of -10F, which makes them a very hardy plant- excellent for beginners.
Napini may be referred to as the flowering blossoms of a brassica family plant. These are consumable for most plants in the same group.
But napini refers precisely to the napus kale flower buds. They taste ranges from sweet, spicy, and bitter.
Harvest date is just before the flowers appear similar to broccoli kale, usually around when the plant starts to bolt.
Kale rabe is known for its similarity to other members of the brassica family, paired with other veggies like radish, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and more.
As you know, kale is extremely popular for its nutritious foliage and consumed as part of salads, smoothies, and more.
Napini kale varieties
There are multiple variants of kale that produce napini:
- Brassica napus
- Brassica oleracea
- They’re also called “run-ups” in the eastern states.
The more common names are Russian and Siberian kale. Siberia is one of the best varieties for raw salads due to its sweet, crunchy texture. They’re harvested in the second season.
The napini/kale rabe is the flowering shoots of the actual kale plant. This is a hardy and tolerant plant which makes it excellent for beginner gardeners that want to plant an easy to grow veggie.
B. Napus is milder in taste compared to B. oleracea, however, it is much more tolerant to frost.
They produce thick, sweet, and tasty flower shoots after the wintertime.
Kale flowering is what makes this possible. When kale flowers, the foliage becomes bitter (which gives kale its signature taste).
Similar to other leafy greens like broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce, this veggie is loaded with nutrients. Kale is high in vitamin C, K, and A with plenty of calcium.
Napini goes full force in the spring when sunlight photoperiods are 12 hours or more.
You can plan them as early as March all the way into early summer and have them harvested by winter.
What about rapini?
Rapini is the more popular sister of napini.
It’s a member of the same family as turnips and they look like small, leafy blooms with yellow flowers and broccoli leaves. In the US, we call it “broccoli rabe.”
Napini is called “kale rabe.”
With so many aliases, it can be pretty confusing.
Whether you call it napini kale, kale rabe, or just “the other kale,” this guide will show you how to care and grow it.
Napini kale’s color ranges from purple to green to dark green. But when cooked, it’ll always turn dark green.
How to grow napini kale
Napini kale is an easy veggie that’s perfect for beginners. It tolerates cold weather and grows well throughout most of the US.
If you buy kale seeds, you can plant them in early fall or late summer for a springtime harvest.
Napini kale requires full or partial sun with organic compost. You can plant this kale variant in hardiness zones 2-10. Keep them wet with 2” of water weekly. Adjust based on climate.
When the winter comes and the temperatures drop, add a thick layer of mulch around each stem base.
This will help keep the moisture contained and protects them from below freezing temperatures so they can overwinter properly.
When the springtime rolls around, remove the mulch, and add fresh compost. Wait until the plant bolts, you know it’s time to harvest.
When to harvest napini kale
Kale is a biennial plant and is harvested during the second season in the spring. You’ll see the plant start budding with shoots.
Cut them off cleanly 4” in from the bud. Harvest them before they bolt into flowers for the freshest and crispiest kale you can eat.
You can also encourage additional yield by cutting back some of the buds so the plant spends energy-producing flower heads.
Saving the seeds
Kale can be preserved for its seeds. If you want to plant additional plants next season you can let the plant bolt and harvest the seeds.
Or you can do this with a kale head that is accidentally bolted.
How to propagate napini kale
Kale is a bit tricky to propagate but easy enough if you pay attention.
Starting from seed, sow in early fall or late summer using well-draining soil with organic compost for best results.
Ensure that the plot has no weeds, as these will compete with kale for the nutrition in the soil.
Space the seeds 0.5” deep in rows 2-3” apart.
Spritz the surface with water and keep it moist. The sprouts will appear and develop their first set of true leaves. Thin to 8” apart.
If you’re buying a grown plant, you can transplant your kale into well-draining soil and add organic compost.
Plant 8 weeks before first to allow plants time to establish themselves before the first winter.
Kale can be overwintered but will need time to acclimate to the new environment first.
How to preserve napini kale
Kale is easy to preserve by placing it in a plastic bag and tossing it into the fridge.
Don’t seal the bag and place them in the vegetable drawer. Keep moisture out as any humidity will make it spoil faster.
Thus, if you wash before you store, make sure it’s dried.
Or just wash before use. Storing kale in the fridge will keep them fresh up to 5 days.
What can you do with napini kale?
Napini kale can be used in many of the same recipes like any other kale variant.
You can use it for salads, omelets, frittatas, pasta, or consume with some olive oil, garlic, and salt.
You can also make kale rice or risotto. This kale can be blended and consumed in a smoothie or green drink.
Any recipe that calls for broccoli or asparagus can be replaced with napini kale.
Can napini kale be frozen?
Yes, napini kale needs to be blanched first before freezing.
Blanch by cutting it into small pieces and boiling for 2 minutes. Remove the pieces and place them into an ice bath.
Drain the water and freeze in a single layer on a piece of parchment paper.
After this, the kale can be sealed in a freezer bag and frozen for up to 90 days.
Can you grow kale in containers indoors?
Kale can be grown in containers indoors and it’s extremely easy.
As long as you provide enough light daily, keep the soil moist, and provide enough nutrition, you can have a thriving kale farm inside your home.
There are many tutorials online that provide this information.
What are some good companion plants with kale?
You can plant some other kale friendly veggies like cucumbers, char, potatoes, spinach, onions, beets, onions, celery, and other veggies not in the same family.
What can you not plant with kale?
Avoid planting fruits and legumes like beans, strawberries, or tomatoes.
You should also not plant kale with members of the same brassica family to avoid pest problems.
Don’t plant napini kale next to broccoli, kohlrabi, Brussel sprouts, swiss chard, and cauliflower.
Does napini kale like sun or shade?
Napini kale prefers full sun when possible, but partial shade won’t damage these hardy plants.
Aim to provide at least 6 hours of daily sun to give ample leaf growth. Fertile soil also helps produce more tender leaves with a tastier crunch.
What does kale grow well with?
Does it regrow after cutting?
Kale will produce more foliage and leaves as it grows taller.
You need to properly cut it if you want it to continue growing. The wrong cutting method ruins the plant and makes it take longer to regrow.
Remember to not pull, only prune.
There’s a method for cutting the kale properly, as shown by this video:
How do you pick napini kale so it keeps growing?
Kale will continue to produce leaves front he top of the stem.
The stem constantly grows taller and produces leaves over time.
To pick it properly, snip the oldest leaves near the bottom of the plant first.
Don’t prune the smaller top leaves. The bottom leaves are older and ready to be pruned, which will help your kale plant continue to produce leaves for many months.
Cutting the top leaves will kill the plant, so avoid this at all times.
Common napini kale pests
The bugs that eat napini kale are no different than the pests that eat the rest of the brassica family.
Some of the most common bugs are aphids, flea beetles, and cabbage loopers.
Aphids can be handled using insecticidal soap, luring natural predators, or even just the spray from a water hose.
Cabbage loopers are small green caterpillars that can quickly devour a kale plant.
You’ll notice huge random holes in your leaves. They can be controlled by manual removal, diatomaceous earth, row covers, or Bt.
Flea beetles are tiny black beetles that poke small holes in your kale. Neem oil proves to be effective in handling them, but you need to make sure that you use it correctly.
Neem oil will burn plants when the excess is not washed off the leaves.
Also, only use it in the early morning or evening to avoid sunlight. Use as directed.
Common napini kale diseases
Some common diseases of kale are black rot and damping off.
These can be avoided by planting each kale a safe distance from each other and avoiding other plants in the brassica family.
Black rot is noticeable when the leaves turn black.
It’s caused by a bacterial infestation known as Xanthomonas campestris. The leaf turns black and slowly wilts.
Damping-off is common and causes young plants to wilt. It’s very common in kale transplants.
Provide excellent airflow and avoid planting in areas with dead air to prevent it.
Otherwise, napini kale is a hardy plant that can tolerate a variety of conditions.
Did you plant some napini?
And there you have it.
You should now have a good understanding of how to plant this kale variant.
It’s a sweet and easy to grow plant that’s perfect for beginners looking to dive into the world of veggies.
Plus, with kale being so expensive, you can harvest your own organically raised kale for next to nothing. Reap what you sow.
If you have any questions, post a comment below. Let us know how you get on!
I took interest into microflora and microgreens before it became mainstream. The idea of growing an entire ecosystem on a tiny scale simply was astounding. That’s where I discovered that I actually like raising plants and wasn’t as much of a black thumb as I thought. Now, I’m relaying what I’ve learned to others who are getting into the hobby in a way that anyone can understand.