Saving Kale Seeds – Learn How To Harvest Kale Seeds
By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
In recent years, nutrient dense kale has gained popularity among mainstream culture, as well as with home gardeners. Noted for its use in the kitchen, kale is an easy-to-grow leafy green that thrives in cooler temperatures. A wide range of open pollinated kale varieties offer growers delicious and extremely beautiful additions to the vegetable garden.
Unlike many common garden vegetables, kale plants are actually biennials. Simply, biennial plants are those that produce leafy, green growth in the first growing season. After the growing season, plants will overwinter in the garden.In the following spring, these biennials will resume growth and begin the process of setting seed. In this article, we will discuss how to harvest kale seeds so you can plant another crop.
How to Harvest Kale Seed
Beginner growers may be quite surprised by the presence of bolted kale plants in the garden. However, this scenario presents the perfect opportunity for collecting kale seeds. The process of saving kale seeds is really quite simple.
First, gardeners will need to pay close attention to when kale has gone to seed. For optimal seed production, growers will want to leave the plants until the seed pods and stalks have started to dry and turn brown. This will help to ensure that the seeds are mature at harvest time.
After the seed pods have turned brown, there are a few choices. Growers can either cut the main stem of the plant to harvest all the pods at once, or they can remove individual pods from the plant. It is important to remove the pods promptly. If you wait too long, it is possible that the pods may open and drop the seeds onto the soil.
Once the pods have been harvested, place them in a dry location for several days to a couple weeks. This will ensure that moisture has been removed, and will make collecting kale seeds from the pods much easier.
When the pods are fully dry, they can be placed in a brown paper bag. Close the bag and shake it vigorously. This should release any mature seeds from the pods. After the seeds have been collected and removed from the plant matter, store the seeds in a cool and dry place until ready to plant in the garden.
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My Kale Has Gone To Seed: Collecting Seeds From Bolted Kale Plants - garden
Plant Problems: Plant Bolting
The term "bolting" means a plant has stopped the productive, growth stage, and is turning to the production of seeds. It is also referred to as "going to seed", which is exactly what the plant is focusing upon. propagation of the species. It is a normal part of a plant's life cycle to produce seeds. Unfortunately, when a vegetable plant bolts, its harvestable days are over.
Bolting is common among lettuces, onions, cabbage, Bok Choy, and other cool weather crops.
Here are a few examples of the signs of plants bolting:
Lettuce is turning a lighter green and is drier looking. Leaves taste bitter and dry.
The plant shoots a stalk upward producing little, if any leaves. Seed pods develop.
Onion plants produce a long, tall stem. A flower appears at the top.
The head of cabbage (or Kale) plants split, and a stem emerges. The stem ultimately develops a flowers and later seeds.
This is caused by stress on the plants, and sometimes, longer days. The most common plant stressor, is high temperatures and humidity.
Lack of sufficient soil moisture is another common cause of bolting.
Plants may also bolt due a lack of nutrients, disease problems, or insect infestations.
Once your plant has begun to bolt, there is no stopping or reversing the process. But, you can do things to delay plant bolting. Look to eliminate factors that cause a plant to bolt.
Note: Delaying or avoiding plant bolting, requires steps to be taken BEFORE bolting begins.
The most common cause of bolting is high temperatures. How does one go about lowering the outdoor temperatures? Unfortunately, there is little a gardener can do to provide relief. If the plant is being grown in a container, the container can be moved to a shaded area during the hottest part of the day. Or, it can be brought inside, into air-conditioned comfort. For garden plants, misters used at midday, or shade covers offer some relief.
Dry soil is perhaps the next biggest stress that encourages your plants to bolt.
If your plant us under stress, due to any other factor, the cure is simple. eliminate the stress.
Grow cool weather crops in spring and fall, avoiding mid-summer's heat.
So, your plant has gone to seed. Now you want to harvest and save the seeds.
They certainly won’t go to waste. One option is to toss them out to your chickens. Garden fowl love to peck away and munch on leafy greens — even if they’re a little stringy and astringent for your pallet. Don’t have herbivores to feed? Chop up the seedless plants, flowers and all, and mix them into your compost pile.
Once leafy greens begin to flower, they may taste bitter. And, they may be very tough to chew. But, if you want to give them a try, consider mixing them up in our broccoli leaf recipes. Or, pluck a few flowers to toss into your green salad. They’ll add a peppery bite, but to some, they’re a tasty surprise.
In my own garden, red winter kale that I planted last fall has now gone to seed. We enjoyed harvesting several meals from the leaves, and now my Ballard Bee Company honeybees are hard at work pollinating the flowers — making seed and honey for me! Once they’re done, I’ll harvest some of the earliest seed to ripen. Then, I’ll pull the plants out, reinvigorate the soil with compost, and plant in my summer tomatoes. Here in Seattle its still too chilly to put out tomatoes, but in a few more weeks — after I get some great kale seed — the timing will be perfect!
Timing the Harvest
Small, tender lettuce leaves are pretty to look at and delicious to eat, but when the plant goes to seed, it looks gangly and unattractive as it bolts (sends up a flower stalk to produce seeds). The blooms resemble small dandelions and the plant gets quite tall as if it's reaching for the sun. After a bolt, it's time to harvest your seeds.
Waiting out this awkward growing cycle—when some veggies plants look plump and beautiful while the greens are past their prime—is hard to do for those who value garden aesthetics. The good news is that you don't need a lot of plants to produce seeds. In fact, one plant per variety will provide more than enough seed for next year's harvest. That said, camouflaging one or two bolting plants in your garden is easy to do. And you won't even see them if you plan your garden's layout with this in mind.