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my plan to breed a perennial brassica  RSS feed

 
Gilbert Fritz
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As my first breeding project, I am going to try to develop a perennial brassica. I am choosing this as my first project for a number of reasons. Brassicas have strong incompatibility mechanisms, and thus I will avoid the necessity of making hand pollinations. As far as I know, there is no perennial brassica suited to Denver CO. I am very interested in perennial vegetables, and we eat lots of cabbage and kale. The Brassicas have many diverse species and varieties which can cross, thus making for something of an adventure.

So, the plan; in a bed by themselves, I will plant one perennial brassica, probably a kale, surrounded by as many types biennial hardy brassicas as I can lay my hands on— one of each. Of course, the perennial will have to spend the winter before it flowers in a greenhouse. Then, after the various plants flower, I will keep each one's seed separately. I can be fairly sure that most of them represent a hybrid. The next year I grow a couple from each. Of course, each F1 can be different in this case, unlike the usual F1, but I probably will not have much room.

I would really like to share the F1 seeds with other gardeners in the Denver area.

After this I see if the F1s make it through the winter. If they do, I collect seed from all that make it, and plant it out to get F2s. The F1s have crossed with one another, so I will have a very diverse population. I will start actively selecting in the F2 generation. If one of my F1s, meanwhile, has proved cold hardy AND perennial, I will already have something. Promising plants can then be planted together in isolation to generate another round of crosses.

Eventually, if I get a hardy, tasty, heat tolerant perennial brassica, I might try to cross it with one of the many ornamental kales around, to generate the perfect edible landscaping plant.

Comments and advice are welcome. If you live in Denver or a similar climate, and want to participate in the project, let me know.
 
William Whitson
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Location: Washington coast
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How perennial? A few years or indefinitely? Something like Western Front kale might give you a good starting point. It is reasonably hardy and I have a good number of plants that are now in their third year. Expectation is that they might give up to five years.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hello Bill,

I would like them as Perennial as I can get, but five years are better than nothing. Eric Toensmeier failed with Western front in Massachusetts, and concluded that it (and the other perennial brassicas) was best suited for a Pacific coast climate. I will probably be using Western Front as one of my starting plants.

The problem is the here in Colorado, I would have to make them heat tolerant (it gets up to up to 100 degrees occasionally, regularly into the nineties) and cold tolerant ( it regularly gets down to zero, occasionally down to negative twenty, sometimes without snow cover, and with the regular occurrence of long warm spells in midwinter, which fool plants into thinking that it is spring). Sixty degrees in January is not unusual. And of course, it is dry and the sun is intense. . .

But the Brassica family is really diverse, and I hope I can make it happen.

Where is the best place to get Western Front?
 
William Whitson
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Right. Easy to forget about the heat. Maybe cross in some Tronchuda / Portuguese Kale for heat tolerance. It can also go perennial, although not as readily as it is more in the collard group than kale.

Adaptive Seeds should have Western Front.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I grew some Tronchuda Cabbage, and it seemed to do alright in my summer, though not excellently, since I had a very hard clay soil. And most if not all the plants died overwinter. ( I was going to try saving seed) But I should probably try to cross it in.

I did not know it was weakly perennial; thanks for the information.

I think I will get some cold tolerance from Red Russian Kale, very cold tolerant, but it does not like the heat and is not at all perennial.

I am also interested in the Piricicaba Broccoli, which was bred for heat tolerance in Brazil.

There are lots of interesting brassicas to try!

Ordinary Brassicas struggle here, due to the heat and dryness. I am going to talk to the folks at the living historical museum here; they have a regular cabbage which does at least moderately well.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I just remembered that both Western front and Red Russian are MAY be Brassica Napus. This may complicate things a bit. Maybe I should try two breeding pools; Napus and Oleracea.

Toensmeier says that Western front is an oleracea, while I found a source on the web which claims it is a napus, bred from Red Russian.

Can anyone straighten this out? I guess I could by experimenting!
 
William Whitson
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Interspecific brassica hybrids are possible, just not high probability. I'm not sure about WF's origin. It's creator did a lot of reconstruction of brassica evolution, so it could be out of B. napus, or it could be B. oleracea x B. rapa. Sometimes, it is easiest just to try it and see what happens.
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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I live in western Oregon (zone 8 or 7) and I've been growing various Brassicas for over 25 years now, several of them as perennials or triennials.

According to my old seed saving book, "Seed to Seed", by Suzanne Ashworth, all collards and most kales belong to the genus Brassica and the species oleracea. "Botanically, kale is a bit confusing. Kales that belong to B. oleracea include Common, Scotch, Marrow-Stem, Borecale, Chinese, Tall, Cabbage, Tree, Decorative, Flowering, Kitchen, Ornamental, Cow and Curled. However, Siberian kale, Hannover Salad and Winter rape are B. napus, along with rutabagas." Later it states: "Do not presume that a kale called Siberian will not cross with other varieties of kale belonging to B. oleracea or other members of the Brassica family." So this group can get quite confusing, just like squashes!

At any rate , I've been growing Perennial Tree Collards for about ten years now. They are one of the toughest Brassicas I've seen and they usually get down to 5-10 F. with no problems. They can form large clusters of 3 foot high plants that look like Brussels sprouts plants without the "sprouts". The leaves are high in calcium and protein. I just pinch flowers off in June and July and the plants will become perennial- perfect for permaculture. They are resistant to heat during late summer, too. Two months ago we had a deep freeze here (down to 0 F. or much lower in some places) and my older Tree Collards aren't looking very healthy now. But I have a feeling they'll kick back into growth when spring arrives and I prune off the dead stuff.

I also grow Purple-Sprouting Broccoli as a perennial. I just pinch off the flowers and bend the stems over so the plants can re-root along the stem. These guys can go for years like this without much care. Some of new ones survived the recent deep freeze without problems- these guys are tough! Plant them in a spot where they'll get afternoon shade in the summer and they'll do fine.

I like growing lots of kale, too. I just grow a big mix of the Siberian types called "Wild Garden Kales", bred by Frank Morton at Gathering Together Farm. Flowers can be pinched, or the plants can be allowed to reseed. You can buy this mix and the Purple-Sprouting Broccoli from the Territorial Seed Company (TerritorialSeed.com).

You might also try digging up some big Brassica plants in late fall and just storing them in a big box in a corner of your garage or greenhouse where they won't go below 10 F. Good luck with your Brassica project!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Do tree collards produce viable seed? I had thought not, but you mentioned them flowering. If they did, some of the tropic types might have the heat tolerance genes I need.
 
William Whitson
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Yes, but not easily. They set relatively few pods even with heavy flowering.

Also, my purple collards don't seem as freeze resistant as M.K.'s. They started taking damage this year at about 18 degrees F. It is also pretty windy here, so it could be the combination.
 
Jordan Lowery
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i have been selecting for a perennial kale( or long lived), i started out with a few varieties of kale. the red russian from a friend at 5000ft elevation with harsh winters for this area was dominant in the seed and in the traits i wanted. these traits are to oversummer in the california heat. 4-6 months with no rain, temps up to 115f, and combined with winters with lows down to around 10f. at 10f the plants dont care. im not sure about -20 with no protection. to add to that my oldest kale plant was 6 years old. ive since moved locations and will be starting over with seed from the group of 5-6 year old plants.

i have foound to keep them productive and not overwhelm themselves with leaf. is you need to prune them as well as harvest. that's a whole other topic.

the plants look similar to the originals but are definitely different and portray a good amount of diversity in the genetics considering the number of phenotypes visible in any given generation.
 
Matu Collins
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I also have been selecting for long lived kale. We call it wild garden kale too, and it exhibits a lot of red Russian kale traits. We have 100 degree days in the summer and many days in the 90s, and winter can give us -10. (Recent winters have been unpredictable) My oldest plants are three years. My best success has been near large rocks
 
Steve Flanagan
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My tree collards are great. They take heat and are relatively drought tolerant. They flowered last year and produced a lot of seedpods. They seem to do their best when its cooler out.
 
Jennifer Jennings
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Did Alan Kapuler do anything with brassicas that can be found in the literature? I'm sure Eric Toensmeier covered this in his books, but Kapuler has a massive repository of knowledge, and there might be some little gem rolling around his notes. It might be worth it to contact Seeds of Change and ask them...
 
Guy De Pompignac
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For breeding projects, take a look at :


Homegrown Goodness : http://alanbishop.proboards.com/board/8/breeding-projects

and

Plant Breeding For Permaculture : http://perrenial-food-crops.proboards.com/
 
Michael Cox
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A note about heat tolerance - there is a suggestion in some of the material that I have read that tolerance to both high and low temperatures are linked and that similar genes may be needed for both. Your search for something tolerant to both high and low temps may not be too hard.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Thanks for all the responses! I will post pictures and notes here of my results.

And I have heard of cold and heat tolerance being related, at least in peas, by Carol Deppe. It will be interesting to see if that works out here.

Has anyone ever tried to eat some of the more extravagant looking ornamental kales? Just imagine one on a six foot stock!
 
Burra Maluca
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:
Has anyone ever tried to eat some of the more extravagant looking ornamental kales? Just imagine one on a six foot stock!


Is this one extravagant and ornamental enough for you?



I hope so 'cos I've packed some of her seed up ready to send off to you in the morning...
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Yes, very extravagant. And thanks again!
 
Guy De Pompignac
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Burra: Oh My God ! Do you know how hardy are these kales ?
 
Burra Maluca
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Guy De Pompignac wrote:Burra: Oh My God ! Do you know how hardy are these kales ?


They take our summers of up to 47 C (116 F) and we get frequent frosts of -5 C (23 F) with dips down to -9 C (16 F). I've no idea how low they could go.

Still have some seed. PM me your address if you want it. If you're quick enough I'm on my way to town in a couple of hours!
 
Andrew Still
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I am new here and love the discussion. I have been growing brassica seeds for about ten years in the pacific northwest sometimes working with Perennial brassicas. I wanted to say wooohooo! and be encouraging, but also add a few things I know to the conversation here.

1. Western Front kale is Brassica napus. Along with all red russian types, siberian kales and rutabagas.

2. Brassica napus does not show self incompatibility and happily self pollinates most of the time. B. oleracea shows self incompatibility.

3. Brassica napus perenniality usually is the result of a stress such as coppicing, flower pinching, or tipping that pushes the plant hormones back (temporarily) into a juvenile state.

4. Selecting for third year, and beyond, vigorous growth should be a big focus, as many perennialized brassicas grow as slow as cactucs.

5. Inter-specific crosses happen, but they are very rare and often require early flower development hand pollination or bud pollination, and sometimes embryo rescue depending on species.

Here at adaptive seeds we have noticed western front kale loosing its growth tip to rot in early spring of the second year. I have a hunch that this is the trigger to its occasional regrowth a third year. However in brassicas I have learned it is never simple. One thing that always helpful is having new eyes on a difficult problem. I love hearing about these efforts. Good Luck!
 
Guy De Pompignac
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M.K. Dorje Jr. wrote:
I also grow Purple-Sprouting Broccoli as a perennial. I just pinch off the flowers and bend the stems over so the plants can re-root along the stem. These guys can go for years like this without much care. Some of new ones survived the recent deep freeze without problems- these guys are tough! Plant them in a spot where they'll get afternoon shade in the summer and they'll do fine.


Hi MK, is the purple sprouting broccoli Purple Peacock ?
 
Guy De Pompignac
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Hi Andrew,

i've ordered seeds at Adaptive Seeds some years ago, i love your nursery!


Another way is to work with fertile Daubenton perennial kale, some crosses have been made recently, so there is a lot to explore :
http://alanbishop.proboards.com/thread/4341/hard-believe-daubenton-flowering

Maybe a way is to work with Nine star perennials, i've put the idea here :
http://perrenial-food-crops.proboards.com/thread/13/broccoli-star-perennial
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hello Andrew,

I was just looking at the Seed Ambassador Project as a Possible source of genetics for this project. Thanks for all the advice!

A few questions about your answers;

Do you think the 'perennial' napus varieties are actually any more perennial than usual types? So, in other words, would I get the same results by cutting back any napus?

Would it seem that I should then focus on oleracea? I don't have the expertise or time to do hand pollination to get napus types to cross. Or is there a pretty fair percentage of outcrossing among napus types, even though they are inbreeders? I would be satisfied with five percent or so.


 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Guy De Pompignac wrote:
M.K. Dorje Jr. wrote:
I also grow Purple-Sprouting Broccoli as a perennial. I just pinch off the flowers and bend the stems over so the plants can re-root along the stem. These guys can go for years like this without much care. Some of new ones survived the recent deep freeze without problems- these guys are tough! Plant them in a spot where they'll get afternoon shade in the summer and they'll do fine.


Hi MK, is the purple sprouting broccoli Purple Peacock ?


Guy, my Purple Sprouting Broccoli seeds came from the Territorial Seed Company. Many years ago, I got the same variety from Abundant Life Seed Foundation. This variety is originally from England. Purple Sprouting and Purple Peacock look like different varieties to me. Territorial also sells White Sprouting broccoli seed. Purple Peacock is now in their spring catalog as well, and they describe Purple Peacock as a "broccoli-kale cross". (I forgot to mention earlier that oleracea kale can also sometimes cross with broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc. in the oleracea group.) I'm not sure how cold hardy Purple Peacock is, but it looks really cool! That Wild Garden Seeds catalog looks really cool too, I'm going to order a catalog real soon! Thank you for the link!
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Here is another link to Wild Garden Seed, they have some really cool kale varieties that I think you guys might be interested in.

http://www.wildgardenseed.com/index.php?cPath=42&osCsid=7a9167741c2b8d5b520fdf726981a76c
 
Jessica Padgham
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If you are still looking for local interest I'd love to join in. I have a purple sprouting broccoli that I can contribute to the gene pool. Also if there are some deliberate crosses you would be interested in trying I have a basic understanding of how that is done and I have time to contribute.
 
Cesar Zap
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Hi,
I have just joined in, I have been working on finding more perennial brassicas ever since I was given seeds of D'aubenton Kale and now have three young plants (six months old). Hopefully I would be able to share when I have seeds available.

I have a friend who has Sukuma Wiki Kale and they are perennial and has been growing here in Wellington for more than ten years. I recently got seeds of this variety from a different source and will check for perenniality. My friend's Sukuma Wiki flowered but unfortunately he did not save the seeds as I advised him to. Hopefully it flowers again soon, last flowering was three years ago.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hello Cesar,

Let me know how your perennial brassica adventures go.

I will be starting some seeds for this project shortly.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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I got some very interesting seeds donated to the project; Spis Bladene, which is a danish perenial kale; an f2 from a cross of Daubenton kale and tree collards; and an f2 from a cross of Daubenton and a biannual kale.
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Bountiful Gardens Seeds has perennial Tree Collard cuttings for sale for shipment in the US this month. This link has info about their Tree Collards:

http://www.bountifulgardens.org/products.asp?dept=141

Here's a video about growing Perennial Tree Kale (Collards) in California:






 
Cesar Zap
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Hi Gilbert,

We had a mild winter here in NZ which might have triggered one of my three year old D'aubenton Kale to start flowering. Do you have any requests on what to cross with it for your experiments? My Kale x Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Kale "Russian Frills" are currently in flower and they are the first crosses I have in mind. I can scout for some other plants in the neighborhood that are flowering at the same time to cross with it, I have seen some ornamental kales starting to flower in the parks.

Cheers,
Cesar Z
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hello Cesar,

I really don't know what would be more interesting, so do whatever you are interested in or whatever is easier. I would be glad to try out whatever it is! Thanks a lot!

An update: the seeds I was sent are growing away, and are quite a diverse looking bunch. Some seem to like the conditions far more than others.In a few days I will be planting some hardy kales and a loose leaf heat loving cabbage which overwinters well here to add to the mix. Overwintering will be the real trick: I think I will put some of Burra's plants in the greenhouse or heated frame just to be on the safe side, till I can get the genes all mixed into one huge pool. However, if I loose some stuff, I have backup seed on everything, so it will only put me back one year.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I just bought two kales from adaptive seeds to add to my experiment: Kale Coalition and Western Front.

Here is their description of Kale Coalition.

A diverse genepool mix of 17 oleracea kales and their crosses. Nick Routledge trialed the 17 kales collected on our 2007 Seed Ambassadors trip and this is what happened the next spring. This grex contains a lot of very interesting diversity of kales not available in the US, NOT just curly green kales. A combination of Hoj Amager Grunkohl (DK), Madeley (UK), Westphalian (UK), Westland Winter (UK), Westländer Winter (DE), Asparagus Kale (IR, UK), 1,000 Headed Kale (DE), Roter Krauskohl (DE), Altmarker Braun (DE), Baltic Red (SE), Blonde Butter of Jalhay (BE), Butterkohl (DE), Nicki's Cut'N'Come Again (IE), Shetland (UK), Hellerbutter Kohl (CH), Cavolo Nero di Toscana (IT), and Ostfriesische Palm (CH). The resulting mix of hybrids contains the most incredibly vigorous kales we have ever seen – some plants grew four feet tall in eight inches of potting soil on top of some serious hardpan topsoil, and not an aphid to be seen when the neighboring red Russian kales were hit hard. This mix also sailed through our December 2013 deep freeze without protection, with lows down to 5˚ for a week.

I will also be planting some "standard" kales, and a loose leave biennial heat loving cabbage. I am beginning to wonder how to overwinter all this stuff. I think the Western Front, Kale Coalition, and standard kales, will be left outside with just a mulch, since I hope that they will contribute winter hardiness to the landrace. If the weather intolerant ones die off, that is all to the good. The kales from Portugal and England will probably NOT be able to survive the winter, and that is not their point anyway. So I think I will transplant them into a minimally heated frame for the winter.

Come spring, I will plant a heat tolerant brazilian broccoli that I have, because I would love to cross that in. I will start it early enough that it should be ready to flower along with the other stuff.


 
Shane Peabody
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Gilbert
so what have you decided to use for your perennial gene pool , western front any thing else.
I am working in a project much like yours perhaps we can collaborate in some way.
I have the assistance of two small farms in Massachusetts zone five . One of the farms has been selecting biennial kales for hardiness for a few years now and now we would like to bring in some perennial genes grow the progeny and see what we get. I also have the assistance of another farm that specializes in seedling production and they have offered to grow out the perennial stock. I am excited about a great opportunity to trial perhaps thousands of offspring.
I need perennial brassica seed I am getting 'western front' but I want more diversity. Any help finding perennial brassica seed would hugely be appreciated
Thanks Sal
 
Gilbert Fritz
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An update: I did not manage to make any intentional crosses in the summer of 2015. However, the plants grew like crazy, both those I overwintered inside and those I mulched outside. Many flowered, and I'm sure they crossed and self seeded. This winter, instead of digging them up and putting them inside, I just cut them down to within a foot of the ground and piled straw over them.

I figure that if plants that since I have a diverse gene pool, if some tender or biennial plants die off, it is no big loss. And if it is a complete loss, I still have backup seed on everything.

I will let you know what happens in the spring. One thing to keep in mind is that this has been a fairly cold winter so far.

I plan to remove most of the mulch in the spring so that 2nd generation seedlings will join the population.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Gilbert: Good work on this project so far.

I expect that after you pull the straw back that you'll get lots of seedlings this spring. Later in the growing season it may be difficult to distinguish this year's seedlings from last year's plants that survived the winter. I typically tie a piece of surveyors tape around plants that I want to mark in some way. I might write on the tape with a marker.

I grew a crop of Brassica rapa (turnips) 6 growing seasons ago. They are still self-seeding weeds in my garden. Last year I grew a crop of Brassica rapa (bok/pac choi) seed. In the fall, there was a patch of young volunteer seedlings. I allowed them to go into winter unprotected. I'm watching to see if any of them are winter hardy. I mention the turnips, because the roots have been surviving the winter in my garden. While working with kale, I recommend that you pay attention to things like that. It might turn out that some kind of alternative plant morphology like suckering, or fatter roots, would lead to better over-winter survival rates. Winter hardiness of a Brassica crop is desirable to me because an overwintering crop produces food much earlier in the spring than a seed planted crop, and because my weather can be unpredictable in the spring, so germination can be spotty, and because first thing in the spring the flea beetles are ravenously hungry for brassica seedlings. Even if I don't find a perennial bok choi, I'd be tickled pink to find some that reliably overwinter without protection.


 
Gilbert Fritz
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About 30 percent of my plants survived the winter, including a few of all types. They were under a deep straw mulch, and are re-sprouting a few inches up the stems. (I trimmed them down before mulching.) So it looks like I've already got some fairly cold tolerant ones. I'll be collecting seeds this year, we will see what the next generation looks like. In the meantime, the first generation are sure interesting!
 
Jason Padvorac
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Location: Northeast of Seattle, zone 8: temperate with rainy winters and dry summers.
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What a great project! There might be a good source of genetic material for you here: https://www.mariannasheirloomseeds.com/seed-catalog/new-seeds-for-2016/homesteaders-perennial-kaleidoscopic-kale-grex-new-2016-detail.html


Perfect for the homesteader, gardeners of small spaces, and farmers alike! This is a grex (interbreeding mix) of Purple Tree Collards and Daubenton crossed to a variety of other kales, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Redbor kale, and other perennial kales collected around the Pacific Northwest. The blending of these varieties has resulted in a huge diversity of leaf shapes from long and thin to ruffled or flat, colors ranging from yellow green, red, dark purple, variegated white, and solid green. A variety of plant architectures from extremely tall tree cabbage or palm kale types to bushy plants with many branching stems. However, nearly all plants are perennial and with great flavor passing down nicely from the exceptional epicurean parent varieties of this mix. In taste tests, this kale collards mix has been consistently enjoyed and savored by several chefs, farmers market customers, and CSA share customers alike. The greatest part about all this is that you can easily keep in production and renew the best perennials indefinitely by taking cuttings of second year stems and burying them in rows in fall or late winter. I'll write more about this later.

The initial cross was part chance luck and forethought of my friend Graham from Wales. He was generous enough to send me some initial precious seed. Since then this genepool has undergone a selection for perenniality, bushing habit, winter hardiness, aphid resistance, and against various undesirable plant characteristics. Seed like this is simply unavailable anywhere else. I am releasing this unstable seed as a breeders mix for those wishing to select their own unique perennial kales. Furthermore, in the collaborative spirit of the small community working with perennial kales, this seed is being released under the OSSI license to protect this important genetic material from large multi-national seed conglomerates that might s


I just recently purchased some myself, and will be planting them soon!
 
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