Brisbane Local Food

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I'm sitting here eating my breakfast of bacon, eggs, home grown fried tom and nopales (plant is covered in succulent tangy new pads at the moment) reading an email from Peggy, an American friend in Australia, who is telling me how much she misses Tree Collards.

Wow. A quick search and I know I want them too. Does anyone have any experience growing these in Australia and/or know where we can get some cuttings?

From TREE COLLARDS BLOGSPOT:

Tree Collards are one of the most amazing and interesting perennial veggies I've ever grown. After 20 years of growing them, I'm still amazed at their multi-dimensional nature. I'm excited to provide one of the first online overviews of all aspects of cultivation, propagation and preparation. My love affair with TCs has motivated me to send plants to six states. The TC has put a spell on me! (See Michael Pollen's "Botany of Desire.")

Everything you never knew you wanted to know about Tree Collards

Welcome to the Perennial Tree Collard Blog.  I'm currently compiling my 20 years or so of growing Tree Collards and hope to have all aspects of it's propagation, cultivation and food preparation up soon.

For now, I will just post what I've already posted on numerous Garden Forums around the Web until I find the time to elucidate and edit at length.

"A rose by any other name . . ."

"I've been called Tree Collard, Tree Kale, Walking Stick Kale and Purple Tree Collard.  Call me what you will, but make sure to grow me for at least a year, make some cuttings and pass me on as I do not grow true from seed and I RARELY go to seed.

My leaves only turn purple in cold weather!!  I'm in the Brassica family & look more like a collard than a kale. Whatever you choose to call me, culinary-wise, I can't be beat."

This California Hybrid can withstand even light snow (Oregon) as well as temps in the 90s & 100 (here in Walnut Creek, CA).

Brassica oleracea var. acephala

These perennial veggies are great for the backyard organic vegetable gardener or mini farm as they never stop producing. High in Calcium!!  Sweeter and Tastier than regular collards (especially during the Fall, Winter, Spring when the whether is cooler and the leaves turn purple). And it's one of the favorite foods for our chickens.  Here are some of the locations where the TCs are thriving that I've shipped to: Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Southern California, Oregon, Washington and of course California.

If you and/or your family, friends, neighbors eat lots of greens, it's worth it to have at least three tree collards growing for abundant, continuous harvests.  Once you have some mature plants, please do your part in making new plants and passing them on.

I've grown plants up to 11' tall and 3' wide & recently heard of them getting to 18' plus next to and attached to a wall.  PLEASE REMEMBER - The trunk and branches get woody after about three years, so if you want to share cuttings, you must start to make new cuttings between 18 months to 2 years when the top branches are still tender and green (not woody).  Also, as the plant matures and gets woody, the leaves get smaller on the many side branches.  The main trunk will continue to have very large leaves until you have to prune it at ten or more feet.  Pruning the main trunk is dependent on whether you have it growing next to a very tall wall or whether like most growers, you have it tied to a ten foot tree pole.  Even with two feet of that pole in the ground, there are times that the upper 8' will not support a very large and very top heavy three-year old tree when the ground gets soaked and/or the wind gets really strong.  More about this later when I create a detailed post about cultivation and propagation.

A Morsel of History and Culture

Some people call them Tree Kale or Walking Stick Kale or Tree Cabbage. If you've heard of Walking Stick Kale, this isn't it. In the UK, people tend to refer to what everybody else in the world calls Collards as Kale.  This is very confusing.  Kale is Brassica napa. Regular Collards are Brassica oleifera var acephala. Collards are a non-heading cabbage. Kale is a more salady vegetable, often used as a winter salad green that is available over a longer season than lettuce. Although they are considered different species, there are no genetic barriers to crossing them. Kale is commonly eaten on the European continent, especially as you go further east where lettuce is harder to grow due to the severity of the climate. It is not commonly eaten among the British, which is why they might use the word for something else. If you ever travel in Europe and get something that looks like salad greens but is a bit tougher and heartier than lettuce, and often fairly pretty shades of blue-green or purple, often with a ruffled leaf margin (varies from highly frilled to just a bit), that's Kale

Collards are very commonly eaten in the subtropics and tropical highlands, because they don't bolt as easily as their domesticated cousin, cabbage. I don't know why...they might actually have a bit of tropical blood in them. You can grow them in places like southern Georgia where it is too hot for cabbage. For this reason, Africans and Afroamericans often eat Collards while northern and eastern Europeans and their descendants far more familiar with cabbage. Cabbage was bred from wild cabbage (which I have seed for) to have the fat tight bud, so as to be storable through the winter. It was bred from probably a more northerly strain of the same species that Collards were bred from.

The Tree Collards I have are probably of the famous strain that passes from neighbor to neighbor and at certain permaculture plant sale circles in the East Bay Area. They have decidedly purplish leaves in Late Fall & Winter with a slightly ruffled margin. Plus that might explain why the California strain is reputedly more tender and palatable than other Tree Collard strains, which are reputedly tough and cabbagy. I've been growing them in a hot Summer climate for 10 years and they have adapted well to the heat. They were bred as livestock fodder originally. Since there is some confusion regarding Kale versus Collards, plus no barriers to hybridization, that might explain how someone might have hybridized them and not realized that there is a difference.


Additional Insights~

As a perennial form of cabbage, it is said (I have not seen or actually talked to someone who has grown them this long) to live up to 20 years or more although you might need a scaffold to grow them up. They will get woody after about three years AND the leaves will get smaller, BUT they'll keep growing. And you can espalier them as well.

This species includes some of our most common vegetables such as the cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Although not widely known, these perennials can be amongst the most productive food plants that can be grown in the garden. They grow best in a sunny position and succeed in most soils, doing well in heavy clays. However, they can also be grown in partial shade  They do not like very acid conditions. Prune heavily to get multiple brances and more harvest.

The true wild form of B. oleracea is the WILD CABBAGE, which can still be found growing by the sea in many parts of the country. ( I GROW THEM & have seeds). A short-lived evergreen perennial, it can grow up to 1.2 meters tall. The leaves have a similar flavor to cabbage and collard leaves.  Plants will usually live for 3 - 5 years, though some have been grown for 10 years or more. they do, however, become rather straggly as they age. Whilst most of the plants developed from the wild cabbage have lost the ability to be perennial, there are just a few forms where the perennial tendency has been increased.

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Jessica from Cab Seed Savers had some seeds of this plant a few years ago. Don't know where she got it from. Since it does so well in the cold, I reckon it would be marginal at best here.

I can tell you that 2 varieties of Kale do very well here (Cavolo Nero and Red Russian) and I am expecting these plants to continue over summer. I've bought some horticultural cloth to keep the butterflies away. As do Silverbeet - or the Swiss Rainbow Chard that I grow - I've had SRC plants for 2 years without seeding or dying.

Point is that there are related plants which do well here and can be virtually guaranteed to grow where the 'new' plants are an experiment at best.

I want the one mentioned above:
This California Hybrid can withstand even light snow (Oregon) as well as temps in the 90s & 100

Whether I get it is of course a different matter :). But I want it.

The idea of growing brassicas from cuttings is pretty cool. It would sort out the seed saving problems that are traditionally associated with the species.

I've grown the Chou Moellier variety over summer and found that it got pretty leathery. Mine were over a metre before something happened to them (I can't remember if that "something" was me ripping them out). I wonder if they would have branched if I'd pruned them and if those branches would have grown from cuttings. My leafy greens plan over summer is Egyptian spinach, aibika, silverbeet, kang kong, Ceylong spinach and maybe Suriname spinach.

From A GROWING OBESSION:

And if you’re savvy enough to be asking yourself, “What’s the difference between Tree Collards and Walking Stick Kale?” Michael DiBenedetto elucidated this distinction in a 5/2/09 Gardenweb post. The whole thread can be found here.

This is an abridged version containing Mr. DiBenedetto’s scholarly insights into collards and kale.

In the UK, people tend to refer to what everybody else in the world calls “Collards” as “Kale”. This is very confusing. Kale is Brassica napa. Collards are Brassica oleifera var acephala. [sic]* Collards are a non-heading cabbage. Kale is a more “salady” vegetable, often used as a winter salad green that is available over a longer season than lettuce. Although they are considered different species, there are no genetic barriers to crossing them.

“Kale is commonly-eaten on the European continent, especially as you go further east where lettuce is harder to grow due to the severity of the climate. It is not commonly-eaten among the British, which is why they might use the word for something else. If you ever travel in Europe and get something that looks like salad greens but is a bit tougher and heartier than lettuce, and often fairly pretty shades of blue-green or purple, often with a ruffled leaf margin (varies from highly frilled to
just a bit), that’s Kale.

Collards are very commonly eaten in the subtropics and tropical highlands, because they don’t bolt as easily as their domesticated cousin cabbage does. I don’t know why…they might actually have a bit of tropical blood in them. You can grow them in places like southern Georgia where it is too hot for cabbage. For this reason, Africans and Afroamericans often eat Collards while northern and eastern Europeans and their descendants far more familiar with cabbage. Cabbage was bred
from wild cabbage to have the fat tight bud, so as to be storable through the winter. It was bred from probably a more northerly strain of the same species that Collards were bred from.

The Tree Collards I have are probably of the famous strain that passes from neighbor to neighbor and at certain permaculture plant sale
circles in the East Bay Area; pretty sure it’s a hybrid. Note the decidedly purplish leaves with a slightly ruffled margin. Plus that might explain why the California strain is reputedly more tender and palatable than other Tree Collard strains, which are reputedly tough and cabbagy. They were bred as livestock fodder (and are currently grown as novelty items, or to manufacture “walking canes” to sell to tourists). Those are more collard-like than mine (some say “like miniature palm trees”).

Since there is some confusion regarding Kale versus Collards, plus no barriers to hybridization, that might explain how someone might have hybridized them and not realized that there is a difference. If mine is a hybrid, it might need to be stabilized by culling off-types. Or it might already be stabilized. Not sure.”

Oh, what a mess! According to the Green Harvest and 4 Seasons Seeds web catalogues, both kale and collards are Brassica oleracea var. acephala. Even Wikipedia agrees with this. Brassica rapa includes bok choy, turnips, mizuna and others. However, there is Brassica napus which includes Siberian kale. Has anyone spotted a difference between Siberian kale and kale from everywhere else?

I don't consider kale to be a salad vegetable unless the leaves are picked young, but maybe I need to try one of the more salad-ready varieties. Any recommendations?

Red Russian is a smaller leaf than Cavolo Nero, flatter and with a ragged edge. It is more tender and I'll be giving it a whirl in summer if it will continue to grow then. Not sure that 'napus' would be a correct species name - the scientific names for things follow rules about whether they are Greek or Latin-derived. The genus and species need with be both of the same derivation and the species name follows the genus name in its ending.

Yes, this is exactly what I got hung up on in this article.

This is very confusing. Kale is Brassica napa. Collards are Brassica oleifera var acephala. [sic]* Collards are a non-heading cabbage. Kale is a more “salady” vegetable, often used as a winter salad green that is available over a longer season than lettuce.

Napa ? - no such Brassica species name.

As you say there is rapa, which is chinese Cabbage (including Nappa cabbage) and Bok choi.

I agree Rob - Collards and Kale are Brassica oleifera var acephala. 

In general a great article though and I would really like to try perennial tree collards.

I've got Portuguese Cabbage in -- which is similar -- Couve Tronchuda in Portuguese --Brassica oleracea.

 But the Portuguese Cabbage is often classified as a collard green...or kale!

To complicate the tall  green edibles -- there's also Tree Spinach of which there are a couple of claimants to the name. One is from the Amaranth fam.  -- Chenopodium giganteum and the other is Chaya [REF]: 

Chaya spinach is a leafy green vegetable in the genus Cnidoscolus consisting of over 40 species, of which only chayamansa refers to chaya spinach tree. A member of the Euphorbiaceae family, growing spinach tree provides nutritious leaves and shoots for years and is prized as a necessary and important food through the Pacific Rim and along the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, where is grows naturally in thickets and the open forest. Growing tree spinach is commonly cultivated in Mexico and Central America and frequently seen planted in home gardens.
Chaya spinach tree is actually a big leafy shrub that reaches a height of from 6-8 feet and resembles a cassava plant or healthy hibiscus, with 6-8 inch cupped leaves borne on slender stems. 

While there's the culinary component with these plants -- what really appeals to me is that you have sort of vertical veg you harvest high...and plants that will look like Triffids in the garden. 

How cool is that?

Portuguese Cabbage looks interesting.

Just wondering where you got your seed ?

I found this

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/PORTUGUESE-CABBAGE-200-seeds-HERITAGE-/1...

and

http://www.4seasonsseeds.com.au/Cabbage-Couve-Tronchuda-Portuguese-...

The thing that is interesting  about the Purple Tree Collard in the article is that it rarely seeds and mainly cutting propagated, so unlikely to bolt in heat I guess.

Either I got them from 4Seasons or another local seed supplier. Wherever, they were fertile. The cuisine that emanates from them -- say, in Portugal -- is pretty interesting...It's almost a national plant in the way that Afro Americans celebrate collards (&'greens') as quintessential Soul Food.

I mention this because the break through 'cook book'  I read way back was Verta Mae's 'Vibration Cooking'

It moved Soul Food into access and in the mix -- great engagement with the collards is Mae's ...celebrates Gullah culture.

FYI: A whole book on Collards.

A new job for stilt-walkers ;-) No one is mentioning pruning to reduce height and have leaves produced on lower laterals. It'd be interesting to grow some and prune some and see what happens.

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