Shetland Cabbage

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Shetland Cabbage/KaleI

Kale Shetland Cabbage/Kale (Brassica oleracea L) is the oldest known Scottish local vegetable variety and has been grown on the Shetland Islands since at least the 17th century (Fenton 2007). Used as a vegetable, the outer or dropped leaves are also used as winter feed for cattle and sheep. In the last 30 years however, there has been a very steep decline in the landrace locally known as Shetland Kale. Much variation can be found in the kale and the heart is much more open than modern cabbage varieties. The cabbage has a characteristic peppery taste and is traditionally cooked in a mutton stew. The production of Shetland Kale has been well documented (Fenton 1978, Anderson 2001). Due to the extreme weather conditions on the Islands cabbage seeds were traditionally planted in plantie crubs, a small circular stone-walled enclosure, the cabbage seedlings were then transplanted into larger yards also often with stone walls. These structures can still be seen all over the islands, although many are now in ruins. Shetland Kale while grown in yards by the thousand in the 70’s is now grown in yards by the hundreds. This is mainly by elderly crofters.Clubroot is virtually nonexistent as the cabbage has adapted to being grown in the same area each year. The cabbages had no natural predators until about the time of the World War 2 when white butterflies were introduced. Although no official statistics exist there has been a sharp decline in the last 30 years and a study carried out on behalf of SCF in 2008 found that only 9 ha of the Shetland Cabbage was being grown in situ.

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