This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.
Today’s Spotlight is not about the usual single cultivar, but instead about an open pollinated mix that doesn’t produce totally predictable plants. Wild Garden Kale Mix originated as a cross between the Brassica napus ‘Red Russian’ and ‘Siberian’ kales. The mix produces a wonderful array of colors and textures in the leaves, which can range from completely flat to downright frilly, and from greenish white to pink and reddish shades. Most seed mixes you buy are made up of selected, established varieties of one or more vegetables, but not this one.
This mix is a gene pool that has been used by Wild Garden Seeds plant breeder Frank Morton to develop distinct strains like Red Ursa, White Russian and Winter Red. Red Ursa is another favorite here, and I did a spotlight on it back in 2013. I grew White Russian for the first time this spring, and it proved to be another tasty addition to our kale lineup. But make no mistake, while the Wild Garden Kale Mix is the mother of those varieties, the plants you get are not exactly like any others! The nine leaves in the above photo are from nine different plants, and for reference the ruler is 18 inches long.
Farmers, market growers and home gardeners alike can use the open-pollinated mix to develop their own strains of napus kale. So far I have been content with letting nature take its course and growing whatever comes up from the mix itself. It’s all tasty and good as far as I am concerned, and the plants seem to have a vigor that’s more often associated with hybrids than with open-pollinated varieties.
This year I started seeds in late June, and in early August I set out 16 of the plants. About a month later I harvested the first leaves. I got a pretty diverse group of plants, as you can see in the photos. The texture of the leaves ranges from mostly flat, to slightly cut and curved, with a couple of plants that have frilly, finely cut leaves. The colors go from green leaves with white veins, to green with red veins and on to leaves with a purplish red tint all over.
In the kitchen, I find the leaves to be tender and flavorful. I think it is safe to say that if you are a fan of Siberian or Red Russian kale, then you will probably like the plants from the Wild Garden Kale Mix too. Like most kale, the leaves get sweeter after they have been frosted on and frozen a couple of times.
I have not tested the hardiness of this kale mix. Most of the kales I grow here typically do not overwinter outside without protection, except for curly kales like Winterbor or Starbor. I plan on covering the plants soon with Agribon and seeing if I can get them to make it through the winter and give us some kale rapini next spring.
I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight. Seeds for Wild Garden Kale Mix are available from several sources in the U.S., including Wild Garden Seeds, Nichols Garden Nursery, and Territorial Seed. I’ll be back soon with another variety.