'Western Front' Kale
'Western Front' Kale

'Western Front' Kale

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Brassica napus

Origin: Holyoke, MA

Improvement status: Cultivar

Seeds per packet: ~70

Germination tested 12/2023: 98%

Lifecycle: Biennial

Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates (co-authors of Paradise Lot) originally received seeds for this Red Russian-type kale from the great Tim Peters in the year 2000. At that point, in Oregon, Tim was finding around 50% of seedlings were perennial. But the perennials were never hardy in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, the kale was so delicious, and enough plants reliably survived through one winter for it to establish itself (self-sowing) in the lot in Holyoke for over 20 years. They never bothered producing starts for this plant, but did broadcast seeds in gaps in the garden to supplement the volunteers that pop up wherever they please. Flowering shoots in the spring are also delicious as little kale-broccolinis!

These seeds were produced by Eric in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Our friends at Adaptive Seeds in Oregon and Quail Seeds in California are the only other seed companies currently offering 'Western Front' kale (as of this writing — December 2023), and both report that this kale continues growing through the winter most years (and they also both note that there's still some diversity to this population, with some white-stemmed and broad-leaved plants cropping up). Sarah and Andrew at Adaptive continue selecting primarily for winter hardiness, but their winters are decidedly more mild than Eric's, so we expect this is probably the cold-hardiest strain of 'Western Front' still around. We're grateful to Eric and Jonathan — and Sarah and Andrew — for maintaining this and other important Tim Peters varieties.

GROWING TIPS: Can be started in flats when you would start any other kale (late winter through late summer), but easy enough to simply broadcast wherever you want it. Will self-sow under the right conditions (basically anywhere without dense grass or weed pressure).