Homesteader's Kaleidoscopic Perennial Kale Grex Plants
Brassica oleracea var. ramosa
EFN EXCLUSIVE.We're incredibly excited to be offering this seed for the very first time. From our good friend, the genius plant breeder Chris Homanics, comes a singular achievement in plant breeding which we have no doubt will be the source of many fabulous perennial vegetables. We were thrilled when Chris gave us seed from this population two years ago for EFN volunteers to participate in this important long-term breeding project, and now we're very grateful that Chris has enough seed to share with our customers. Please do stay in touch about the progress of your plants and any interesting specimens. Every seed in each packet will be a new and unique plant. How awesome is that?!
Here's what Chris himself has to say about these seeds:
"Perfect for the homesteader, gardeners of small spaces, and market farmers alike! This is an interbreeding mix, called a grex, of two perennial bush kales that seldom flower — the 'Purple Tree Collard' and 'Daubenton' kale. These were crossed to a variety of other kales, some Pacific Northwest & West Coast perennial kales, along with cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Redbor kale, and more. This resulted in a huge diversity of leaf shapes and colors. Long and thin to ruffled, smooth, flat, or wide. The colors include yellow green, red, dark purple, variegated white and pink, and solid green. Plants vary from tall palm-kale types to bushy plants with many branching stems. I’ve been selecting strongly toward the latter form.
Due to extensive selection of thousands and thousands of plants since 2011, the entire population is now nearly all strongly perennial [though not all will be winter hardy in all zones, of course]. Being not just a farmer, but also comfortable in the kitchen and a lover of good food, this kale has been heavily selected towards superior flavor. With both of the original bush kale parents being excellent epicurean varieties, selection was made to pass down this great flavor into the population. Repeated taste tests have found this kale mix to a consistent top-performer — savored by chefs, CSA members, and farmers market customers alike.
The initial cross was a mix of luck and forethought by my friend Graham from Wales. Having communicated about perennial kale for years, he was generous enough to send me some initial precious seed. Since then this genepool has undergone heavy selection toward strong perenniality, bushing habit, winter hardiness, aphid resistance, and other traits. You will find about 15% of the plants expressing beautiful colorful variegation after being exposed to cold snaps. Seed like this is simply unavailable anywhere else. Though already very market worthy, I am releasing this as a breeders mix for those wishing to select their own unique perennial kale.
The way these perennial kales grow allows for a multi-year rotation plan within your growing scheme, living for a few years in one place, before being easily moved via stem cutting to another part of the farm or garden. This means more production over a longer period of time. Due to its sheer vigor, I strongly recommend at least 3ft spacing. Most plants will flower in the second year, however the vast majority will continue growing once flowering has finished later in the season. The best plants can then be cloned via older woody stem cuttings in the late Fall to early Winter, depending on your climate. After several winters, old plants will eventually loose vigor. The farmer-breeder can then expand out the best clones and keep them going indefinitely.
In the collaborative spirit of the small community working with perennial kales, this seed is being released under the OSSI [Open Source Seed Initiative] license* to protect this important genetic material from large multi-national seed conglomerates that might seek to patent or otherwise control it. Please stay in touch, I would love to see what develops from your work with this seed. I will gladly accept photos or woody stem cuttings of exceptional plants to include in my breeding population."
As required by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Washington Crucifer Seed Quarantine, a representative sample of this seed was tested (by Oregon State University) and found to be free from Blackleg fungus (Leptosphaeria maculans, or Phoma lingam).
* The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) pledge states: “You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict other's use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.” More information on OSSI can be found at osseeds.org.
PLANTING TIPS: Plants could be 14-20 inches apart.