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Introducing purple tree collards

 
gardener
Posts: 2123
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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I love my purple tree collards. These great perennial vegetables provide year-round greens and now that they’re fully established I have more than I can eat.

Tree collards and other similar perennial vegetables like Kosmic kale make it easy to have fresh winter greens.

This week’s blog post—Purple Tree Collards – A Fantastic Perennial Vegetable—dives into these perennial vegetables but I wanted to give some info here too.

Quick Overview



While purple tree collards are great perennial vegetables they’re not very cold hardy. USDA zones 8 and 9 are ideal for them though they might be able to go warmer or even down to zone 7.

Though in zone 7 I would make sure to plant them in a warm micro-climate. Even here in zone 8 I have mine planted along the southside of my house since we occasionally get cold snaps that could kill purple tree collards.

My purple tree collards so far haven’t shown any signs of frost damage despite some nights down in the upper teens (F).

These plants also like full or partial-sun and can get fairly large—hence the name tree collards.

As far as taste they have a mild flavor and are good eaten raw or cooked.

Growing Purple Tree Collards



I have 3 purple tree collards growing on my wild homestead and I’m hoping to add some more to other areas this fall.

When I first purchased them they were very small—just small rooted cuttings. And I got them in winter.

I was very careful with them when I first planted them giving them each their own little plastic green house. Since they came from a nursery in California I was a bit worried about them handling the cold here.

But I don’t know if that was really necessary. Though in the end all 3 have survived and are growing great. I’m going to have to start trimming them down to keep them from blocking a window!

So if these plants sound interesting to you make sure to check out the blog post!

And I would love to hear what you think about purple tree collards. Have you tried to grow them? Make sure to leave a comment over on the blog post and here!

While you are over on the blog most make sure to leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.
 
pollinator
Posts: 380
Location: Athens, GA Zone 8a
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Daron Williams wrote:

And I would love to hear what you think about purple tree collards. Have you tried to grow them?



I started two Merritt tree collard cuttings late last fall, and they're doing well in the ground now. How long did you wait to harvest yours?

 
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, USA
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I’m jealous. USDA Zone 5.
 
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Location: Boston Mountains, NW Arkansas
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Too cold for purple tree collards here but Red Russian kale grows great. There's a pause in summer where I let the bugs take over and a pause between mid December and mid February where they just sit there. It was said to be a perennial 200 years back.

Spring, 2 years ago I had a volunteer grow outside the garden. I just left it alone. It's a biennial and last spring it set seeds and then grew back in the fall. This year it is setting it's second crop of seeds. I plan on saving the seeds and planting some this fall to find out if I have a perennial Red Russian kale.
 
pollinator
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Location: Zone 7a, AZ
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Zone 7, but I do have a nice little micro-climate on the south side of the house that I think would work.  I've been intrigued by these for a couple years but couldn't find them.  Is the flavor similar to regular collards?

Bonnie
Staff note (Daron Williams) :

Thanks for the comment on the blog! You were 2nd to post but watch for next week's blog post and another chance to get a piece of pie!

 
pollinator
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Location: Southern Oregon
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I planted them here in southern Oregon (zone 8a), as well as in my old place in the SF Bay Area (zone 10a). They did great in the Bay Area, harvested year round, great taste, just like other collards, tough and somewhat bitter, but not as much as kale. I couldn't eat them raw, unless they were tiny leaves. Here in southern Oregon, we have major ground squirrel issues, and they loved them as much as I. I really can't have unprotected greens here. Will try again in a ground squirrel protected area, which isn't easy, requires hardware cloth on all sides, including the ground.
 
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I JUST tracked some rooted cuttings down, and am trying to determine the best location for them. I got one for the people, one for the chickens, and one for the rabbits. I’m looking to create fodder gardens near the animal housing, so those will go there, and I’m thinking the people one will go in the veg garden. Great to know they can handle down to teens—that’s about the worst we’ll get in winter here in NE Florida.
Wanted to ask if they were deep or shallow rooters?  Thank you!  
 
pollinator
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Thanks for the post. I have not tried these. I lilke collards but didn't know about these. I have to grow things indoors so hopeing it will work with these. I just ordered some ;-)
Staff note (Daron Williams) :

Thanks for the comment on the blog post! You were the first so pie for you!

 
Posts: 409
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
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I'm excited to see if I can get my unrooted cuttings to grow into perennial trees.  I've seen John Kohler, and Dan over at Plant Abundance have good luck with them, and pretty much rave about how well they do, so I ordered a couple from an Etsy shop called Healthy Harvesters (he claims to be a permaculture nursery, and has a lot of plants for sale on his page although I don't think he's got the tree collard cuttings right now, or the Pakistani Mulberry I also bought from him.).

It all came as stated, and it's leafing out now, so hopefully they're growing some roots in the soil.  I received them through the mail on April 20th of this year, and that's when I took the picture.  The Mulberry was really tiny, but it had healthy looking roots.  I just took a picture a minute ago of how much they've leafed out in less than a month.  I keep them in filtered light under some lattice that gets the filtered morning sun, but gets all shade from about 2pm until the rest of the day, so they're getting very little light.  It's already hot here where I live (mid 90's F right now) with intense sunlight.
I paid $30 for all three of them, which was a bit steep in my opinion, but I wanted them and couldn't find anything local.  I think it was $15 for the two collards.

The long term goal is to plant one of the collards in my pool/chicken coop, along with the mulberry, and the other one like Daron Williams said, against the south side of my heated house since we're in the same zone.
IMG_20200420_163331879.jpg
How they came in the mail on April 20th 2020.
How they came in the mail on April 20th 2020.
IMG_20200515_121820941.jpg
How all three look today.
How all three look today.
IMG_20200515_121805726.jpg
Closer up of the cutting that had leaves on May 15th 2020.
Closer up of the cutting that had leaves on May 15th 2020.
IMG_20200515_121810939.jpg
Closer up of the cutting that had no leaves, but now is sprouting several on May 15th 2020.
Closer up of the cutting that had no leaves, but now is sprouting several on May 15th 2020.
 
pollinator
Posts: 158
Location: Providence, RI, USA
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Excellent thread!

I've been excited about perennial greens ever since I discovered Crambe maritima (aka sea kale). Last year I expanded my perennial kale selection by planting out a bunch of seeds from the Experimental Farm Network's Kaleidoscopic Perennial Kale Grex. I had 2 survive our warmer-than-average winter. We only got down to 10 degrees F, so I don't know how these will hold up once some real cold sets in.

The really cool thing, though, is that I have figured out how to propagate one of them from cuttings. So I should be able to keep some scions alive through the winter inside - with a little bit of luck.

I would love to find someone in zone 7 or 8 who might take a few cuttings and propagate them - just to make sure this type of kale is available to future gardeners. The flavor is halfway between kale and cabbage. Slightly sweet & very appealing to a lover of greens. Its genetics are unique, since it came from an open-pollinated collection. If you're interested, contact me through my website (https://www.foodforestcardgame.com) The "contact" link is at the bottom of the page. Or you can contact me on Instagram: @foodforestcardgame. I think I still have sea kale seeds, too. They have a low germ rate (like 20%) but I'm happy to share them so they don't go to waste.

If the flowers turn into seeds, I'll be planting those to see if they are even hardier. Given that plants sometimes create seeds adapted to colder climates, this seems like a legit possibility.
 
Daron Williams
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Dianne – I started harvesting mine during the first year but very little. This year is their 2nd and I really can’t keep up with them! So I would say worth holding off the first year though it depends on how much they grow.

Anne – I know of at least one person that grows them in zone 5. Though he has them in bed that gets covered with a green house each winter. He has also just taken cuttings from them and rooted them inside before the frost kills them and then replanted them in the spring. Not ideal but it can work—of course if you have to replant them each year then you could just stick with regular collard greens.

Here are some links to videos he made about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA7YA495qJw and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKC187hkNEM

Woody – Glad that the kale is working for you! I’m getting kale (mix of different varieties) going in my food forests this year with the hope that they will just regrow from seed or even potentially become perennial. Thanks for sharing!

Bonnie – Good luck with your tree collards and yeah they taste very similar to regular collards.

Stacy – Thanks for sharing and sorry to hear about the ground squirrel issues. I wonder if there are any different varieties of purple tree collards… I haven’t noticed any bitterness with the ones I have. But I’m also not very sensitive to bitter foods.

Kimberley – I’m not 100% sure but I don’t think they have tap roots and I would assume that they are fairly shallow rooted. Though I haven’t needed to water them either… Anyone know for sure?

Lyda – Great! Happy to help and good luck with your tree collards! I love mine! 😊

Joshua – Good luck with your cuttings! I just took a cutting from my existing plants to try to root them. First time I have tried doing that but it’s supposed to be fairly easy. Thanks for the comment!

Karl – Thanks for the comment and for sharing about the perennial kale you have been trying. Have you tried Kosmic kale? I have a few of those plants going at my place and they have been a great perennial kale. They never flower and stay very bushy. I love how they taste and they’re also fairly ornamental looking with variegated leaves.
 
Karl Treen
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Daron Williams wrote:
Karl – Thanks for the comment and for sharing about the perennial kale you have been trying. Have you tried Kosmic kale? I have a few of those plants going at my place and they have been a great perennial kale. They never flower and stay very bushy. I love how they taste and they’re also fairly ornamental looking with variegated leaves.



I would like to. I have a very full garden right at the moment, but it's on my list for the future. I would be curious whether it would perennialize in my zone. Maybe if I got seeds that had been harvested from someone in zone 7 I would be able to squeak them into zone 6b. Since it doesn't flower often, maybe that's a long shot.

Cheers!
 
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Hi everyone,

thanks for this great veggie !
What's its latin name please?
It seems that it has a different name in Europe.

Thanks
 
Lyda Eagle
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Thanks for the Pie!!! And I am amazed that you got so much abundance of food from such a tiny space. Just goes to show you can grow a great deal of food if you find the right plant for the right place.
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