Saturday Spotlight: Wild Garden Kale Mix

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.

leaves from Wild Garden Kale mix

leaves from Wild Garden Kale mix

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.

Wild Garden Kale with whitish leaves

Wild Garden Kale with whitish leaves

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.

Wild Garden Kale with reddish leaves

Wild Garden Kale with reddish leaves

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.

frilly leaves

frilly leaves

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.

flat leaves

flat leaves

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.


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12 Responses to Saturday Spotlight: Wild Garden Kale Mix

  1. Phuong says:

    That is a lovely mix of kales you got. The textures are so different, it seems like a great way to explore the world of kale. Can you tell a difference in flavor from plant to plant?

    I planted kale for the first time on October 18th of Galega De Folhas Lisas kale. It’s probably much too late for it but maybe it’ll do something in early spring.

    • Dave says:

      I have not tried doing a taste test on the individual plants. I have not heard of that Galega De Folhas Lisas kale, I will have to check it out!

  2. Margaret says:

    Russian kale is a favourite of mine and I’m fairly certain I like Siberian – the mystery kale I have grown appears to be that variety, although since I’ve never actually grown a named Siberian kale, I can’t be absolutely sure. Even though I don’t have nearly enough space to set out 16 seedlings, it looks like I would not be disappointed with what came up if I were to start a smaller quantity…another one to add to my list!

  3. Michelle says:

    That looks like a fun mix to grow, I’m sure the next round of plants from your seed stock will be all different as well. I’ve not yet tried a kale that wasn’t tasty, but I’ve learned to avoid the really frilly ones because aphids are a huge problem in my mild winter garden and the smooth leafed kales are easier to keep clean.

  4. ray says:

    some how I missed where you got your seeds

    can you send me the source
    I’d like to give them a try
    I’m just getting into Eliot Cloeman’s { and Niki Jabbour’s ] 4 season harvest ideas.

    I Just put up 4 Hoop Houses — 3 are 12 x 14 one is 12 x 17
    Want to have 2 or 3 layers of protection including cold frames and mini hoops under
    the main hoops.

    Is it too late to plant Kale this year?
    I am zone 5 — just south of Rockford, IL. what do you think???

    • Dave says:

      Hi Ray, I got my seeds from Wild Garden Seeds. I don’t have any experience planting kale this late. I would guess it wouldn’t make much growth until perhaps next Feb. or March, so I would probably wait until then.

  5. Mark Willis says:

    I think those kales would be great for a Potager garden, because they have lots of visual appeal as well as their nutritional value.

  6. Susie says:

    I love mixed packets, so easy to try new varieties without having to commit to an entire crop. I’m surprised the mix didn’t have any Tuscan style …

  7. David Velten says:

    That’s an attractive mix of kales. Like Margaret, I don’t know if I have enough space to get 9 different kinds growing, but it is tempting. Weren’t you also growing the Coalition grex from Adaptive?

  8. Pingback: Variety Spotlight: White Russian Kale | Our Happy Acres

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