This category of posts exists so that the site can host a permanent knowledge base concerning those vegetables that are easy to save seed from, root cuttings from or divide. The reason for this is to reduce our dependence on garden centres and to make our gardens more self sufficient.
I have the following types of perennial brassica. They are:
- Variegated Daubenton (‘Panache’) Kale
Hardy but not as hardy as Taunton Deane, with a hard frost it wilts in a way Taunton Deane doesn’t. Not as vigorous as the non variegated Daubenton with a decent enough flavour. Forms a shrub shape, maxing out at 3 feet tall. Does not flower and is propagated by cuttings. Native to France.
- Ehwiger Kohl (‘Everlasting Cabbage’) Kale
Very similar to Daubenton and can only be distinguished from each other with a practiced eye. This one is called ‘Everlasting Cabbage’ in Ireland and Ehwiger Kohl in Germany, where it comes from. Hard to come by.
- African Kale
This one was given to me by a friend and I have never seen it for sale. It is perennial, a different shade of green to the other two, with a bush form maxing at 3 feet. It does have a few flowers though which can be eaten like broccoli. Not as hardy as Taunton Deane, though it is hardy.
- Taunton Deane
Very hardy (I’ve seen no frost damage at all), very tall, my tallest is 9 feet tall and growing. It forms a hard trunk like a tree and very good flavour after a frost. This is the best perennial kale that I have found.
- Asturian Tree Cabbage
This kale is grown in many places across the Iberian peninsular. It does flower but these can be eaten like broccoli. you can also propagate by cuttings. When cuttings are rooted they are apparently called ‘grandchildren’ in their homeland.
- Nine Star Perennial Broccoli
I prefer the flavour of standard purple sprouting broccoli to this but the flavour of this broccoli is pleasant, it’s just a bit mustardy as opposed to asparagus-y. I just get the impression that PSB has been heavily invested in over the years and 9 star has been neglected. It is not bad though and productive, though I haven’t got one to last more than five years. It behaves like PSB and will put florets on in early Spring the next year after planting. The florets are white and big for a broccoli. We are told you must remove all flowers for the plant to survive but I let one go to seed and the plant survived and is alive still, which means the plant isn’t monocarpic. After you have cut all the florets (which are white) the plant will (probably) look like it is dying – all the leaves will try and fall off – but most of the time it will resprout a month later. While it is producing florets I will take cuttings for insurance purposes. You can propagate with cuttings or by seed.
It has to be said that most brassicas, at least the western ones I have experimented on, can be propagated by cuttings, so you don’t really need perennial brassicas to avoid giving money to garden centres for seed. They do take longer to set roots than the perennial brassicas. Except for 9 star, all the perennial brassicas take less than a month to set roots from a cutting. 9 star and your ordinary brassicas take 6 weeks or longer.
The best way to take cuttings is to pull a side shoot off a main stem. You need what looks like a miniature plant and not just a leaf. You can also just cut the top 8 inches off a plant and use that. Take the cutting and put it in moist compost in a warm place and Bob’s your uncle. Do this in summer or early autumn and it works quickly and with a high success rate.