Ornamental Kale (Brassica oleraceavar. acephala) is part of the Brassica family, along with cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
Genetically, it’s the same as the culinary type that we love to eat. However, it’s been hybridized to look more like a flower with purple, pink, and/or white leaves. Sometimes mislabeled as ornamental cabbage, you can tell the difference by looking at the leaves: kale is curly or ruffled, whereas cabbage has leaves that are broad and smooth.
Ornamental kale is liked by gardeners who want to add some color to their fall and winter gardens and containers, as it grows well in cooler weather. In fact, the colors become their most vibrant once night temperatures start dropping below 60°F. However, these colors will start to fade once nighttime temperatures start dropping to 20°F and colder.
And because I know you’re all wondering: Ornamental Kale is much less flavorful than the “edible” culinary leafy greens. However, the leaves of these varieties are safe to eat. Just make sure to stay away from the roots, which are poisonous in any type of kale.
Ornamental kale plants purchased at a nursery may not have been grown organically, and there is a chance that they may have been sprayed with potentially toxic chemicals including pesticides or herbicides that are not food safe.
If you’re unsure if they’re safe to eat, it’s better to err on the side of caution and use these plants only for decorative purposes.)