Saving Seeds from Kale

This year I decided to save seeds from my new favorite kale, Beedy’s Camden. Back in the 1980â€ēs Beedy Parker noticed a kale that was overwintering in her Camden, Maine garden. She propagated it, and made seeds available to other gardeners. Likely a relative of a Siberian kale, her kale has silvery, frilly leaves and a sweet, delightful taste.

silvery leaf of Beedy’s Camden kale (click on any image to enlarge)

Since kale readily cross pollinates with other members of the cabbage family, I pulled up any other Brassica plants that were blooming. I am pretty sure I was the only gardener within the recommended one mile isolation distance that had brassicas blooming this spring.

flowering Beedy’s Camden kale

The kale was quite impressive while blooming, reaching a height of about 5 feet tall. And the bees really loved all the yellow flowers. Now the seed pods are maturing, and drying up. So I pulled the plants and started harvesting the seed pods before they got too dry and shattered, spilling out all the seeds.

dried kale seed pod

There are many different ways to go about collecting the seeds. When dealing with a small amount, I generally just put the pods in a bowl and let them finish drying.

bowl of kale seed pods

But for larger amounts like this, I needed another other method. So I cut the seed stalks off the plant, and put them in a paper sack to dry. That way the sack can catch any seeds that fall out. When the pods are dry I shake the stalks in the sack to let the seeds free. Then I pour the seeds out of the sack into a bowl.

kale seed pods drying in paper sack

There’s still a lot of chaff that needs to be cleaned from the seeds. I’ll do a winnowing operation on a day with light winds. But you can also use a fan to help blow away the lighter chaff. You just need to be careful and not let all the seed blow away too!

kale seeds before winnowing

I will have seeds of Beedy’s kale to share soon, when I finished the drying and winnowing process. If anyone is interested in trying this great kale, just leave a comment or email me and I will be happy to send them out. I should have enough seeds for at least a dozen or so people. It’s hard to believe it is already time to start planning a fall garden here, and that’s when I will plant kale.

Happy growing from Happy Acres!

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23 Responses to Saving Seeds from Kale

  1. Daphne says:

    I typically put seed heads into paper bags before I winnow them out. They are very easy.

  2. Jenny says:

    very nice kale! I’d love to have some seeds if you have extras 🙂

  3. Lynda says:

    I’m saving seed this season, too. I have a celeriac plant that lasted 2.5 years that has just set seed. I would love a tiny bit of your Kale seed and I could send you some of my celeriac. Thanks!

  4. Lou Murray's Green World says:

    Very familiar looking seed collection system. I did that with Scotch Blue Curled Kale and some Collard Greens, but they were right next to each other and flowering at the same time. I didn’t know at the time that they would cross pollinate. I haven’t bothered to plant seeds of either one. I would love some of your kale seeds, a very small number. I have some Rouge Vif d’Tampes (vivid red Cinderella pumpkins) and Queensland Blue pumpkin seeds for trade. I only have five of the red pumpkin seeds left, but plenty of the Queensland blues. I won’t put my address on a blog post, so send me an email and I’ll respond with my address via email.

  5. I hope your kale comes true. I considered saving seed from Kale once, but we have a problem with wild mustard here, and it blooms all over this area in the spring, and as mustard is also a brassica, I’ve just presumed there’s potential for cross-pollination. As it’s insect pollinated, I think for us I’d have to construct some sort of mosquito netted tent to prevent accidental cross-pollination of our brassica crops for seed saving, although I don’t think it would be too challenging as our beds already have hoops in place. Might be fun to try though!

    • Dave says:

      According to my favorite source, “Seed To Seed” by Suzanne Ashworth, Beedy’s kale is either B. oleracea or B. napus, and it will not cross with yellow flowered mustards, which are B. juncea. Since there is a dearth of gardeners around us – especially those who would let other Brassicas go to flower, I truly believe these will come true.

  6. bonnie says:

    I would enjoy having some of the seeds if you have plenty. Thanks.

    I have let mustard, turnips, and collards go to seed, mainly to let the mustard and turnips bloom for the beneficial insects. I have saved some collard seeds. The finches love to eat the mustard and turnip seeds. It almost sounds as if they are giggling as they fly away.

  7. Mimzy says:

    Dave,
    I’d love to have some Kale seeds. This spring my kale was flowering and never once did I think to let it go a bit longer to harvest the seeds. I don’t know what kind I had but it grew and grew and Ed loved it. I would like to have a packet of your seeds when they are ready. The Happy Yummy Pepper seeds you shared with me are growing happily in my garden! Monday I canned another 10 quarts of beans. ~Carla

  8. Emily says:

    Dave,

    I’d love some kale seeds. So far the only Kale I’ve had over-winter here is the red Russian type that I found in the garden when I moved in. The trouble is that if the plants are too big, they aren’t covered by snow and negative temperatures kill them. I’m still working on when ie the right time to start the plants to be the right size.

    The happy yummy seeds you sent are doing well and I’m looking forward to trying those peppers!

  9. Norma Chang says:

    I’d love to try a few seeds if you have extra.
    Does that mean the giant red mustard in my garden could be cross-pollinated since I frequently have different member of the brassica family blooming at the same time?

  10. Dawn Miller says:

    I would also love to have some of your fabulous Kale seeds.
    Thanks for the offering

  11. KJ says:

    Hi Dave,
    I’ve been following your blog for a while and always find it interesting! I would love to try a few seed for this unusual kale. I’ve only recently gotten into seed saving but can offer you Golden Sweet yellow peas and/or Blauwschokkers blue podded peas in return. (Please just e-mail me and we can exchange addresses.) Thanks for your generosity!

  12. Bee Girl says:

    I’m saving seeds this spring, too 🙂 I’ve got kale, turnips, radishes, carrots and beets. I just harvested the turnips seeds today! I can’t wait to see how they all turn out 🙂

    • Dave says:

      Sounds like you are getting into seed saving in a big way! It is a fun thing to do, and a good way to save a bit of money as well.

  13. Sharon says:

    I LOVE Kale and would love to try some seeds (if you have some extra). I wanted to let you know that the Happy Yummy Hot and Sweet Pepper plants are looking beautiful!

  14. Looks a lot like the frilly wild Russian kale I grow. I would love to try some of this kale here at The Havens.

    I usually just let my kales go berserk and reseed themselves in the garden. I suppose I should be more organized and actually save some seeds…

  15. kitsapFG says:

    That kale variety looks somewhat similar to my favorite – Siberian Dwarf Improved. If you have enough seeds after meeting everyone else’s request, I would love to try some of this myself. How much of a patch do you need of kale to produce good seed stock? Some plants require quite a population to get healthy viable seed. Is Kale (or brassicas in general) like that or can you work with a small planting to save seed?

    • Dave says:

      I had about 7-8 plants I let go to seed, but one or two would have given me plenty of seed. I’m not sure that you would need any more than that.

      It does look like a Siberian kale, and it might just be a selection of hers that proved especially hardy. I like the fact that it has a story behind it, and I’m helping to pass it on!

  16. Dave says:

    I should have plenty of seeds for all of you. I hope to have the seeds ready to mail out by the first of next week. I will email those I need addresses from.

  17. Emily says:

    Dave,
    I got the seeds in the mail this past weekend. Thanks!
    Emily

  18. Pingback: Harvest Monday, November 18, 2013 + Pea Shoots Stir-fry | Garden to Wok

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