Origin: Caucasus Mountains (via Montana)
Improvement status: Landrace
Seeds per packet: ~35
Germination tested 12/2022: 70%
Life cycle: Perennial
Also called greater seakale, flowering seakale, or heartleaf crambe, giant colewort is cousin of seakale most often grown for its spectacular explosion of pretty white fragrant flowers. Also a perennial in the cabbage family, giant colewort is native to the Caucusus mountains where it is foraged as a wild edible and also grown in gardens. While not as productive as Crambe maritima, the leaves are also edible (and likewise are better when young). The flowers and developing seed pods are eaten as well, as is the root (like its cousin Crambe tataria, the Tartar breadplant). But despite its culinary qualities, most people who grow this are in it for the flowers. In full bloom, one plant can reach 5 feet wide and 8 feet tall! Add to that a luscious fragrance similar to sweet alyssum or wallflower, and this is a plant that can truly stop you in your tracks.
Our seed comes from Michael Billington of Nourishing Roots Farm in Montana.
GROWING NOTES: Hardy between Zones 5 and 9, giant colewart is easy to grow (though it does not tolerate acidic soil). Seeds will germinate most readily when their outer shell (technically a pod, though it encases but one seed) has been carefully removed or at least cracked. Plants may be small their first couple years, like many herbaceous perennials. Once established, they do not like to be moved as they send down a single large taproot.