Saving Kale Seeds

One of my aims is to be able to save seed from veg that I grow and like, and to be able to share the seed with other gardening friends.

The black Kale varieties make a fantastic winter veg, strong, earthy and tasty. And it manages to survive what winter throws at it. I’ve grown a few varieties but like the open pollinated variety sold by Real Seeds  Nero Di Toscana, a black kale. I thought this would make a great seed to start saving.

Last year I grew loads of Kale and got excited when they started to flower, however being a complete novice to seed saving, I managed to pick the seed heads way too early. I’m determined to improve on that, surely I can’t get any worse?, so a bit of research was needed if I wasn’t to repeat the same mistakes.

One of the things I did read (Suzanne Ashworth) was “the brassica family can be a difficult one for the garden seed saver…” As a novice seed saver all I thought was, oh Kale, love the taste, let’s try that not realising that it can be tricky. Oh well, I keep telling myself gardeners like a challenge….

I sowed this years batch of Kale in late Spring and planted it out in early Summer into it’s final planting area on the plot and in the garden – as it’s quite a handsome plant, with dark green slightly ruffled leaves, I thought it would make an interesting plant to look at over winter, when everything else is dying or has died back. Plus as Kale will cross pollinate with any other brassicas (also in flower at the same time) and as I’m growing Purple Sprouting Broccoli on the plot, I can use the seeds from the Kale in the garden for seed saving. Suzanne Ashworth recommends a minimum of 6 plants to be grown for seed saving but 20 plants will provide a better genetic base.

Most seed books don’t seem to describe in enough detail, for me anyway, what the seed heads should look like. They just seem to glibly say, when it flowers, and starts to dry, pick the seed heads, too scant a description for me! Anyway eventually I tracked down a site with decent photos and descriptions –   http://theextremegardener.com/?p=86 . So at least I now have a better idea of what to look out for. Anyway, we’ve been munching on it throughout winter and nows the time to start planning for saving.

Black Kale flowers
Black Kale Flowers

I’m not sure how long it will take for the seed heads to form pods, they started to flower a couple of weeks ago, so I’ll just have to keep an eye on them, manage to dry them out properly and then store them. Before I dish them out to fellow seed savers I’ll also try a few in a germination test.

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