This spring, we let the overwintered Kale go to seed so that we could harvest the seed for our Fall garden. We grew Siberian Curled Kale, Brassica napus, an old biennial Kale that grows well for us. By overwintering our Kale, the plants continued producing into the Spring and by mid-Spring began to set seed. One of our goals this year is to save as many garden seeds as needed, so the Kale was allowed to bolt.
As the Kale bolted in our garden, the stalks grew taller to 4 feet or more. The stalks also branched out, and the plants began to flower.
Flowering kale is lovely and it became a huge attractor for Springtime honey bees. Working in this garden, in and around the flowering kale, the bees were my garden companions.
Tight clustering Kale flower buds can be harvested — they are edible and taste like Broccoli. I harvested many Kale buds to add into our salads and stir fry meals and with a double row of Kale, 30-foot long, there was plenty of Kale buds to eat with a more than adequate supply of flowers on the stalks to set seed with.
After flowering, the Kale stalks began producing very small seed pods. As the seed pods began to develop, they grew thicker and longer. The flower stalks also produced side branches with seed pods, too, forming more flowers, then more seed pods. Flowering kale was very attractive and beneficial for the honey bees so they continued to visit.
Most of the seed pods will grow to lengths between 2 and 3 inches.
Each Kale plant provided many seed pods. Before the seed pods dried, we uprooted the majority of the Kale plants so that we wouldn’t have to worry about seeds scattered all over this garden.
We kept a double row about 5-foot long and that Kale was allowed to continue to ripen its seeds. As the seeds developed more fully, the pods swelled as they ripened.
After the seeds were fully developed, the seed pods began to dry and the Kale plants began to die back. At that point, I cut stalks, gathered them up and allowed them to fully dry on the back porch. I placed a sheet under the gathered bundle so that I could keep all of the debris (opened pods and Kale seeds) on top of the sheet. Then I loosely covered the Kale bundle with the sheet so there would be no issues with wind scattering seeds. Within a few weeks, the Kale pods were fully dry.
Using scissors, I snipped dried pods off of the slender stalks. Since the stalks and pods are fibrous, scissors made the task easier.
I then hand-harvested our Kale seeds from the pods. I used an old Ziploc plastic container to separate the dried Kale pods — this prevented the Kale seeds from being released all over the place.
Each seed pod has a thin separating membrane in the center of the pod, running the length of the pod. Kale seeds grow on either side of this thin membrane. If you open the pods carefully and move the dried membrane, the seeds will literally roll out of the pod and into the container.
To harvest Kale seed on a larger scale, the dried seed pods can be crumbled, allowing both seed and pod debris to fall into the container.
Small bits of chaff and debris are easily gathered after the Kale seeds have been harvested from the dried pods. Shaking the container lightly will bring the chaff and other debris to the top of the seeds where it can be hand-picked or winnowed.
These Kale seeds are now ready to be poured into a seed packet where they’ll stay until our August planting time. The rest of the harvested Kale seeds are stored in a glass jar for sprouting. Organic Kale sprouts are nutritious and can be used for edible toppings on salads and sandwiches.