The Hungry Gap and the Auld Kailyard.

A-Hinds-DaughterThe Hungry Gap is our name for the period in Spring when there is little or no fresh produce available from a vegetable plot or allotment.  It is that period when vegetables such as brussel sprouts and winter cauliflowers bolt, stored food is used up, and autumn sown broad beans freeze in the ground.  It is that dark time of the year which our forefathers used to dread, dependent as they were on the tough kale battered by gales, that grew in their gardens, a selection of which was later sold by seedsmen as “The Hungry Gap”.  It was dark green and leathery even after boiling for twenty minutes, and could subdue really ravenous children into threatening to leave home, if presented with it.

Possibly because of this deeply ingrained loathing, and the historically primitive cooking methods used, Kale has had a bad press.  Plant breeders have improved the original vegetable enormously, and our understanding of how to cook it has been extended by exposure to the methods used in different cultures.  It is a vegetable whose time has come, and it is just as hardy and accomodating as it has every been.  It is a plant that you can pick from over and over again, it is highly nutritious, and some of its forms are decorative enough to be grown in a mixed border.   Last year’s bad weather has caused shortages of Spring greens and Savoy cabbages – but kale has sailed through, and is readily available.

Sainsbury’s  are charging £1.00 for a 200 g. bag which is fairly horrifying when you consider how easy it is to grow.  Possibly the fact that it has now become fashionable, and is being used by chefs like Angela Hartnett and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall accounts for it.  Luckily we can grow it for ourselves, so do try a few plants.  I will put a couple of modern recipes for it on the recipe Forum – and I hope you will agree that the Hungry Gap is no longer to be feared.


13 Responses

  1. cilla says:

    Very interesting Sheila. In 2011 I grew Cavollo Nero and it looked wonderful until the whitefly colonised it. However, I found an article on kale in a magazine and cut it out and I am going to try it again this year.

  2. gertie says:

    Have not grown it but we love it. Trouble is, most shops sell it only chopped up and bagged. I like it as from the “Farm shop”, in fresh bunches…lovely yummy stuff!…btw, this is curly kale of which I speak, tho’ I like the black slim stuff too. :yes: :-)

  3. I like kale a lot – not so keen on spring cabbage or any dark cabbage to be honest. I’ve grown it with only minimal success over the last 2 winters :-( OH is really really iffy about it cos it’s what his dad used to grow and feed to the dairy cows when he was growing up on the farm ;-)
    I like the sound of the recipe you put up, Sheila; if you like curry, it’s good in a potato curry using coconut milk just adding it at the end to wilt.

  4. roly says:

    we grew kale 2 years ago [hungry gap] it grew quite well good flavour quite frost resistant definitely a good filler when there’s little or produce is more costly
    last year was a compete disaster for our kale crop

    hopefully this year will be a better year for kale and your rite it was grew for animal feed and a cover crop for game

  5. Jenn says:

    I know kale is a useful green at a time when fresh stuff is sparse but I admit to preferring chard, spinach or spring greens…kale does feel like animal fodder in comparison :scratch: The OH grew cavalo nero a few years ago in our garden veg beds and I must admit that I was glad when the cabbage whites got to it :whistle: I find the dark green-ness of it a bit over powering and it played havoc with my IBS. However, it is very decorative and I may be tempted to grow a plant or 2 to try BS’ recipe which sounds lovely.

  6. cilla says:

    Monty Don reckons it is good thrown in soup at the last moment, much like spinach, I guess. On reflection, a lot of iron doesn’t do me any good jenn! :whistle:

  7. bizzylizzy says:

    have never tried kale before but will be growing ” daubenton ” perennial kale this year thank’s to our friend walt :good: , llike all type’s of cabbage , sprout’s, cauli , i love my greens :yes: ,look forward to some recipe’s :good:

  8. vegg says:

    Great read. I absolutely love kale we eat the newer leaves and the older bitter ones are devoured by the hens, guineas and rabbits. You have a constant supply from a few plants. I gave my mum a few plants that she put in amongst her flowers and shrubs in a border.

  9. Yewbarrow says:

    Oh BS I remember it well, perpetual Kale – yuk yuk yuk, My Dad had a permanent ??bush or whatever of it on his allotment and when all else had gone we had that and no matter how my mother cooked it, it was always the same, tough and strong flavoured – modern varieties I love and have grown them this last time and enjoyed them very much.

  10. Walt says:

    I have grown all kinds of Kale and this is the one we find to be the best :


    look for:

    chou perpetuel daubenton

    I am useless at foreign languages so hope it goes ok.

  11. karenp says:

    found it very easy to grow, did freeze a lot of the younger tender leaves and gave the older ones to the hens, kept them busy over a few days thats for sure :-)

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