I am thrilled to present this guest post on saving seeds
by Petra Page-Mann and Matthew Goldfarb of Fruition Seeds!
Saving seed is the origin of civilization. It is also easy as pie! Truly, some are easier than others and kale is one of the easiest.
Kale is biennial, so it gathers energy the first season to produce its seed the second season. In our temperate Northeast climate, kale may overwinter as a full-size plant uncovered but we plant our seed crop of kale in early September, finding the overwintered young plants more reliably resilient. Some plants will inevitably not survive, but those that do will be that much more adapted to your conditions!
Kale may be Brassica napus (Siberian types, such as Red Russian, sharing the species with rutabaga) or Brassica oleracea(all other types, sharing the species with cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and more). It is critical to only have one of these species flowering at any given time, unless you want them to cross!
In the Spring the bedraggled plants will begin to grow again! Be sure to select for strong, vigorous regrowth as well as leaf shape and color. It is also important to thin plants for increased air-flow around the plants as they go to seed. Our kale planted in September overwinters young and thrives when thinned to ten inches between each plant, give or take a couple inches.
Second year kale will bolt (go to seed) fairly quickly. Enjoy its tall, stately stalks lined with pale yellow flowers covered in pollinators! Each flower will turn into long green pods that swell and turn brown as they mature. Once the lowest pods have turned brown, dry and have shattered, harvest the whole stalk and set it on a clean, hole-free tarp in a dry place for a few days to further dry down.
Separating the seed from the fully dry stalk can be done in any number of ways! We have several sticks we are fond of that knock the seeds out of their pods quite effectively. I also love to wrap up the stalks in the tarp (like a burrito) and dance/stomp on it!
|Wading through an ocean of kale going to seed.|
The seed has now fallen onto the tarp, along with all the chaff (bits of the dry plant). To clean the seed from the chaff, use a colander or another screen you might have in the garage. Also, pouring the seed and chaff before a box fan and into a bin will allow the chaff to be blown away while the heavy seed falls straight down.
It is important to keep your seed well labeled, in a cool, dark dry and rodent/insects-free place. If stored well, your kale will last for years and years!