By Tony Turnbull
Just had your vegetable box delivered? Seen those same familiar curly green leaves poking out? Yes, I’m afraid so. More curly kale, and you’ve still got last week’s to get rid of. It’s not a great time of year for homegrown veg, is it? Winter’s root crops are over, and the first flush of spring, with its promise of tender peas, asparagus and even – oh, what exotic joy – broccoli, is still months away. No wonder they call this the hungry gap.
One person you won’t find complaining, though, is Chris Molyneux, the brassica king of Lancashire. On his farm near Ormskirk he grows green kale, red kale, Russian kale, black kale – anything with a “k” in it, plus spring greens and Brussels sprouts.
To schoolchildren he must seem like the Antichrist, but as we tour his fields, the wind whipping in off the Irish Sea, his passion is infectious. “That’s cavolo nero, or black kale,” he says, pointing to a puckered leaved plant. “It’s got a lovely taste, with a bit of pepperiness to it, but you can see where the frost got to it the other night. That’s the Italians for you – not very hardy. And this,” he says, ripping leaves off another plant, “is red Russian. It doesn’t look so good on the stalk, but it’s the sweetest of the lot.”