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EFN EXCLUSIVE. In 2018, EFN co-founder Dusty Hinz met planter breeder Telsing Andrews for the first time in person at the Organic Seed Conference in Corvallis, Oregon, after years of communicating online. Telsing is a kindred spirit from Ottawa, Ontario. She gave us seeds for this long-lived leaf-beet population from her. Her breeding goal was primarily focused on perenniality. She began with an open cross of mostly thin-petioled Beta vulgaris accessions known to be long-lived. Telsing is in USDA Zone 5, so this population has the potential to be extremely cold hardy. We assume this is especially the case where there is a lot of snow cover providing insulation.
How long can you expect these plants to live? We think 2-3 years is probably a good average for most of our customers, but longer is certainly possible. It probably will want to flower and go to seed, and you may want to play around with not allowing the plant to do this by continually cutting flower spikes off to encourage more leaf growth. But just because it flowers and goes to seed does not necessarily mean that the plant will die! Some will flower and keep on living, much like the perennial beet species Beta macrorhiza. It's worth mentioning that our friend Chris Homanics, in his efforts to breed perennial kale (see our 'Homesteader's Kaleidoscopic Perennial Kale Grex'), has sought to avoid breeding plants that no longer wants to produce true seed and instead can only be propagated by cuttings. We think this population should be approached in a similar way: breeding for perenniality without closing the door on the plant's ability to produce true seed.
These plants will produce big, gnarly roots (some of which are no doubt tasty when small), and large crowns loaded with mainly green leaves. Please let us know they do for you — especially if you end up with extremely cold-hardy perennials!