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What to Do When Leafy Greens Begin to Flower

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Are your leafy greens flowering?

In most cases I advocate harvesting and eating leafy greens like kale before they begin to flower. In fact, try growing and eating leafy greens with this recipe. That’s because once the plant begins to form flower heads, the stems toughen up. And then the leaves begin to taste bitter. At that point, they don’t make the best eating for humans. But, sometimes these plants bolt before we can bring in a full harvest.

Still, there are reasons to view flowering greens as a good thing. Moreover, there are ways to put flowering kale and similar bolting plants to good use.

leafy greens flowering & honeybee pollinating

Bees love to feed from flowering brassicas.

And, when they pull nectar and pollen from these flowers they also pollinate them. When this happens, these a kale plant that’s flowering becomse a source of homegrown seed for your next crops. Yes, open pollination can result in plant diversity for your next crop, but that’s half the fun. Imagine getting some amazing new variety of kale when your red winter and your lacinato varieties get cross pollinated by the bees!

If seed saving isn’t for you, go ahead and pull out the plants.

They certainly won’t go to waste. One option is to toss them out to your chickens. Garden fowl love to peck away and munch on leafy greens — even if they’re a little stringy and astringent for your pallet. Don’t have herbivores to feed? Chop up the seedless plants, flowers and all, and mix them into your compost pile.

Can you eat flowering greens?

Once leafy greens begin to flower, they may taste bitter. And they may be very tough to chew. But, if you want to give them a try, consider mixing them up in our broccoli leaf recipes.

Or, pluck a few kale flowers or blooms from your flowering broccoli to toss into your green salad. They’ll add a peppery bite, but to some, they’re a tasty surprise.

Plant more leafy greens!

When one crop of leafy greens is past its prime, you may want to plant another crop. In fact, you may want to get a second crop growing well before the first one is done. Moreover, you may want to think about more than just spinach, lettuce, nettles, and other leafy greens.

Consider adding delicious crops like broccoli and cabbage with these small space growing tips.

Hint: when these begin to flower, refer back to this article for helpful tips using their flowering leafy greens!

Want more help learning more about leafy greens to grow and eat + more?

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19 comments on “What to Do When Leafy Greens Begin to Flower

  1. Judy on

    I planted ornamental Kale a few months ago as we are having a warmer than normal winter. Now, they started out beautifully, Then the flowers started growing…they are about a foot tall, and now the main “roots” are coming up and out of the ground. The “root” appears to have “rings” around it…do I pull it out of the ground, or just leave the root and cut the flowers off?? This is my first time to plant the kale plants!

  2. Judy Spinetti on

    Help!!! . The y kale in my flower beds has grown foot tall flowers, but the plant looks like i’m supposed to do something for it. The root is about 6″ and it appears to have rings around the root., Do I pull the entire plant out of the ground….will the plant re-grow if I leave the root in the ground?

  3. Garden Mentors on

    Judy, if your kale is flowering, it’s refocused its energy toward seed production. Pollinators love the flowers, so you could leave it for them. However, it isn’t likely the plant will revert to producing tasty leaves again. Best to remove it and replant, but remember that rotating which crops you grow where is a good idea.

  4. Brandy on

    So, my lacinato kale is flowering now. I’m new at this so please tell me what do do to plant the seeds and when? Do I just cut off an unopened flower and plant it or wait until the flower is dead?

  5. Garden Mentors on

    Brandy, are you asking about sowing the seeds from your current kale plants? If so, you may want to reconsider. The kale will likely be cross pollinated with other brassica plants (unless you know how to isolate the flowers for pollination). With open pollinated seeds, you probably won’t get true lacinato kale from those seeds. If you still want to give it a try, the flowers need to be pollinated. The seeds then need to mature. Then the seeds may be sown.

  6. Julie on

    Hi my curly kale is flowering can I just snip the flower tops, harvest the leaves and still let more grow?

  7. Garden Mentors on

    Julie, You can probably get away with this for a while, just keep snipping out the flowers. Eventually, you may find the kale gets tough and bitter with flowering though.

  8. Garden Mentors on

    Jorj, sometimes plants simply go right to seed in late spring. Too, you may have purchased a plant that was already old/had overwintered in a pot and was all ready to flower for spring when you bought it. Be happy for the pollinators and take this as an opportunity to plant something new. 🙂

  9. Gisele on

    My russian kale is not producing too many broad leaves, only small narrow ones, with lots of yellow flowers which predominate the plants. What do I do? Are these plants perennials?

  10. Garden Mentors on

    Giselle, your plant has “gone to seed” (as the saying goes). It is now putting energy into forming flowers, which become seeds. That means less big leaves for you. Generally, these plants are annuals. Sometimes they last longer than one growing season. But, once they begin flowering, they’re ending their life cycle.

  11. Messkena on

    Hi
    I’ve been growing Tuscan Kale & Curly Kale for years but have never seen them flower.
    They looked healthy, with huge broad leaves. Growing them in raised beds, I will normally trim off old leaves and harvest from below to upwards twice a month.
    May I know why they didn’t flower? I’m from Singapore. Thanks

  12. Garden Mentors on

    Messkena, Thanks for writing in. Sounds like you’ve had good success with your kale. If your kale grows long enough, it should end up flowering.That’s just part of its natural life cycle. Yours likely isn’t flowering because you have removed the plants before they reach a mature age for flowering.

  13. Skiff on

    I have an ornamental Kale that’s been through two winters having been brought indoors under grow lights. It’s flowered before but survived somehow, she’s a monstrous 5 headed beast standing several feet tall in a 15 gallon pot. It flowered the first winter I brought it inside but this past winter it did not. Do you have any tips on keeping it alive for many more years? Can these plants only flower once? It’s been under 24/7 lighting but with spring here I’m preparing to move it outside during the day.

    Thanks for the info!

  14. Garden Mentors on

    Skiff, Thanks for writing in. Fun journey with your kale. We have experienced Kale flowering more than once. So you might have luck with that. In fact, there are some varieties of kale that are considered evergreen perennials. So perhaps you have one of those, which would mean you’ll likely enjoy it for years to come!

  15. Emma on

    Hello, so i have a tuscan kale, have used it a number of times over the winter and its still got some lovely leaves but now its beginning to flower. what do i do? i will take off as many leaves as i can and put them in baking, but do i just leave the plant to continue to flower and go to seed, then die or do i just pull it out and chuck away, and get a new one for next winter? ps. this is my first vege garden so its all very new and i know nothing!

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