There are many ways to get to perennial kale. Just see this article. Talk to truly advanced collectors of perennial vegetables in the US, and you will find there is one plant which, although they hear about, and search for endlessly, they scarcely have. Amidst all their varied menagerie of species there is too often a hole where, wouldn’t you guess, the queen of the leafy green perennial vegetables is missing.
We’re just short on royalty here, unlike some blessed inhabitants of the UK who have those great fountains of everlasting leafy goodness in their gardens. Darn that its perennial nature has barred it from passing through customs to the US, otherwise I, and many others, would’ve had it long ago. All reasons why I was ecstatic to find among the pages of Territorial seeds, Daubenton’s Kale! At least, so I thought.
NEW! Gardeners love this new, perennial, bicolored kale. Truly one-of-a-kind, this fetching variety is practically a whole new vegetable! The large, upright plant’s unique perennial habit allows for continuous, cut-and-come-again harvests of gorgeous, slightly curled blue-green leaves that are set off by contrasting creamy white coloration at their rough-hewn margins. This easy-to-grow, highly-edible ornamental was bred by Dick Degenhardt in Boskoop, Netherlands and is propagated by root cuttings.
Available only within the contiguous US.
I say it’s Daubenton’s, as their description and picture above seems to say, but they are selling it as ‘Kosmic’ kale, and a newly bred hybrid? For the sake of not spreading around false information I have emailed Territorial asking them to clarify if they can. So I will see what I can find out and will post my findings.
Of course, if it is perennial, beautiful, and excellent tasting, I will be happy growing it, wether it is or is not Daubenton’s. Let me know if you find anything out yourselves.
Update: I received an email back, and Territorial seeds assures me that ‘Kosmic’ is indeed a novel breeding accomplishment, not Daubenton’s, despite all the similarities. Say hello to a new addition of the perennial vegetable family.
I’m not done yet though. I am determined to find out what genetics make up this “F1 hybrid.”
I’ve been growing this “Kosmic kale” for the last summer since June which I got from Log Cabin Plants. This is what I can say about it. While the plant is ornamental, the plant so far has been a weak performer compared with my other perennial kales like Purple Tree Collards and seeded perennial bush kale crosses. My guess is that Kosmic Kale is a cross between Ehwiger Kohl (Eternal Cabbage) and a variegated form Daubenton. I believe this may be the case because of the nodules that form at the base of this plant which are characteristic of Ehwiger Kohl. Just a guess though.
There are actually several forms of Daubenton still moving around Europe. In fact, seed of this French bush kale was available up into the 1990’s best I can tell. Historically, there were several perennial bush kales, but most have gone extinct or virtually with the exception of the three mentioned. While its claimed, that Daubenton, Purple Tree Collards, etc do not flower, they actually just take several years to do so if conditions are right, or often if conditions are wrong. 😉 Biennial flowering was actually a trait that was only recently bred into many varieties due to commercial farming pressures. Historically many varieties of Brassicas flowers annually, or on odd-year cycles like every three years or five years or more.
A couple of years back I received some seed of open pollinated crosses between Purple Tree Collards,Daubenton, Lacinato, Brussels Sprouts, and some other kales. From this seed, I grew out a couple hundred plants and crossed this with some other perennial kales I’ve collected. I will be growing out several hundred plants of F2 seed again this year in order to select for the best perennials. So far, about 25% of the plants are strongly perennial, in that they have flowered, but have continued to vigorously grow after finishing seed set. Out of all of the plants, five have not flowered at all, perhaps they will flower next year? Plant hormones can also be used to stimulate flowering which is what I hope to do with the Kosmic Kale. After several years, I will pool the best perennials and open pollinate them again. The goal is a vigorous, delicious and delicate leaved, bush kale variety which can be propagated by seed or cuttings.
We’ve been discussing this sort of stuff and other useful plants over at the Facebook group, Plant Breeding For Permaculture: https://www.facebook.com/groups/PlantBreedingForPermaculture/
Come join us if you’d like. 🙂
This is a lot of info! Thanks!
I have heard about Daubenton’s ability to seed. All my sources seemed to think of it as a rare happening though.
I have never heard of Ehwiger Kohl though, and so never would have guessed that could be the other parent. Thanks for your apparently very well informed guess.
I am very interested in your perennial kale breeding. We really need more of those in the US. I’m really curious what effect the Brussel Sprout in the mix might have? Thanks for including all that info. I would definitely be interested in hearing more about it.
The only perennial kale I have worked with so far is Tim Peter’s ‘Western Front,’ which I planted from seed last spring and am waiting to see if I get a 50% perennial regrowth like I’ve heard it has. I haven’t been able to find much information on it though.
Thanks for the invite to your group. I might take you up on that. The one crop I am trying to work on is beans: trying to perennialize them and make them hardy to my zone 5a temps. I’m starting by breeding the perennial, zone 5 hardy, and native bean Phaseolus polystachios with runner beans (P. coccineus) and I hope to try it with some french filet climbers like ‘Fortex’ and see what I can get.
Finally, your CSA rocks! Phenomenal variety! We run a Certified Organic CSA over the summer for 20 weeks with usually around 20 shares. Our apple trees are still growing though, so we just have vegetables, no fruit.
I will be posting soon about one of our gardens that I’m trying to convert to a no-till, very low input system. I’ll send you the link once I post it.
Thanks again for sharing!
have you read this thread were i put info on P. polystachios breeding project that i’m starting ? http://alanbishop.proboards.com/thread/7692/breeding-perennial-wild-phaseolus-polystachios
If you have a source of wild local seeds of these been, there are a bunch of persons including myself that would be interested by some. There are no commercial sources of seeds and no available seeds from genebanks at this time, and accessions are from the warmer parts of the range of polystachios. Good luck with your project, ans feel free to contribute to the thread !
Yes, I have come across this page before and saw your post. Excellent info. I plan to try both P.lunatus and coccineus in my breeding.
The source I know for polystachios seeds is Oikos Tree Crop. This is where I got my seeds, which are now in strat. I’ll see how many out of the five seeds I got from them come up. They don’t have any available now, and they have to check phytosanitary regulations for your country before they will make international orders, but you could try emailing now to see if they could send them to you, and get on their mailing list for an update of when the seeds become available.
I have never seen the plant growing wild around here, despite that I am in their native range. I will certainly make an effort to find some wild plants, and will gladly send some seeds to you as soon as I get some extra seed, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Thanks, and keep in touch.
Thanks for the reply,
good luck with your seeds, i hope to buy some to Oikos next year. It is interesting because they are from zone 5 iirc. And i hope you’ll find a big patch of wild plants 🙂
Yes, here’s hoping!
Judging by the information provided by loghouseplants, the term hybrid doesn’t apply to this new variety.
“We also have a new kale we’re calling ‘Dick’s Picotee Kale.’ A gorgeous ornamental edible, it was bred by Dick Degenhardt in Boskoop, Netherlands using a traditional form of propagation, cloning by root cuttings. ‘Dirk’s Picotee Kale’ adds interest to mixed beds or containers while providing a continuous harvest of nutritious, eyecatching greens for garnishes, salads, or steaming and stirfrying. Plants like full sun and cool moist soil and are somewhat hardy (like dinosaur kale) to about 10 degrees F.”
If it was produced through “cloning by root cuttings” it’s a new variegated mutation of Daubentonof or a grey leaved selection from the existing variegated form. The fact that it’s a week grower (much like the older variegated form) would also suggest this new form isn’t a hybrid. All the F1 Daubenton seedlings I’ve produced have shown a fair amount of hybrid vigour, and while Daubenton and Ehwiger Kohl are related forms, they are dissimilar enough that I’d expect to see some hybrid vigour in a cross between the two. I know trixtrax well enough to confirm he’s extremely well informed, and I can see why he’d suspect Ehwiger Kohl was a involved when you look at photographs on line. But the basal nodules are one of the features common to both Daubenton and Ehwiger Kohl, and neither plant has the “blue-green” leaves this form has so we’d have to look elsewhere for clues if this is a hybrid. But in all honesty, I don’t see anything in this plant that suggests it’s anything other than a new vegetative selection from Daubenton.
It’s also not the only form of Daubenton in the US. I have it on good authority that cuttings from the plain and variegated form have made it through customs and into private hands. So while not yet commercially available, I’d imagine this material is being quietly shared with others and will be more widely available in time.
On another not, you really should join us at Plant Breeding For Permaculture (assuming you haven’t already). There are others there interested in working with P. polystachios (myself included) and I’m sure you’d find it an interesting group.
All the best.
I totally agree with you that ‘Kosmic’/’Dick’s Picotee’ is in every way like Daubenton’s. That’s why I contacted Territorial, both to tell them that calling the Kale Daubenton would help more people to buy the plant because they would know what they are getting, and to ask if they weren’t mistaken that the plant was an F1. I also sent some picture’s I’ve seen online of Daubenton’s kale in the UK that looks exactly the same. They were sure that, despite all the similarities, this is a novel, hybrid, breeding, saying they personally know the breeder.
If the plant is cloned then it is a clone, and there is no novel breeding that has been done, and nothing anyone can claim as new. I agree that there should be some difference between the two kales if there was any hybrid breeding done. I’m suspicious that it was cytoplasmic hybridization, such as in sunflowers being “hybridized” with chicory to get a pollenless/sterile sunflower. But then, what is the effect? There is nothing new I can tell has been added or subtracted from the plant. So what is the point of breeding in the first place?
Since my experience with var. Ramosa kales is limited to books and pictures in excess, I’m very interested, and grateful, for such intrinsic info. Thanks so much.
I will certainly have a lot of info to deduce with once I grow the plant though.
I gave the group a look through my brother’s account, as I don’t have one. It certainly seems like you mean business, and are taking a well informed and scientific approach to your projects. I’m glad for the invite, and will certainly offer my resources, mental and material, wherever useful.
Best to you too.
Well I can certainly say that an F1 Daubenton seedling wouldn’t look like ‘Kosmic’/’Dick’s Picotee’ unless it was crossed with one of the other perennial bush kales like Ehwiger Kohl. And as I’ve said, I don’t think that’s likely. Not least of all because they flower rarely and the likelihood that two separate varieties of this sort flowered at the same time in the same garden is rather slim.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have Daubenton flower for me twice and have produced a number of F1 Daubenton hybrids. I’ve also grown F1 material produced by others and all the F1’s lose the neat bushy habit of Daubenton. They are more branching than the biannual parent, but not to the extent of Daubenton. As yet I’ve only recovered one F2 plant that is anywhere close to Daubenton in habit, and even that seedling needs further work. So I would pretty much dismiss this plant as an F1.
My guess would be either the breeder or the retailer feels there’s more to be gained by claiming this as a novel hybrid. And while I can see where that may help sales here in Europe, I tend to agree they are missing a trick in not letting people in the states know they have Daubenton.
All the best.
I have heard that Daubenton flowering is a rare happening too, making me think the hybrid wasn’t very likely unless done by cytoplasm, which isn’t done by pollen. In that case the genetics are spliced in artificially, but because it’s plant to plant it isn’t classified as genetic modification. At least here in the States. I wonder about the Netherlands though.
If you insist that it simple wasn’t a hybrid at all though, I’m seeing your points. It’s making sense.
Frustrating though breeders can’t just call a plant what it is.
That’s fascinating, and at the same time unfortunate, that the bush habit of Daubenton is (it would seem) recessive. That’s the one thing that makes Daubenton so great compared to all the other kales, I think. It makes for much better use of space.
I’ll see what I can get in my own breeding, and let you know. That is far off probably. I will be trying though.
Good luck with your F2
I wouldn’t worry over any lab involvement here. There just isn’t a lucrative enough market to justify the expense.
Daubentons flowering isn’t as rare as I once believed. As I said I’ve had it flower twice, and I know two other people who have had it flower. One crossed it with Nero ‘Di Toscano’ and another who crossed it with ‘Purple Sprouting Broccoli’. I also know of two people who’ve had the variegated form flower, but for some reason it didn’t set seed for either of them. So if your hoping to make crosses to Daubenton itself, I’d recommend you track down the non variegated form as it seems more willing to cooperate.
If however you’d just like some perennial kale to breed with, I can send you some OP F2 seed from some of my seedlings. if your interested, just email your address to email@example.com and I’ll get some seed off to you.
Once again, you have a very good point.
I saw the perennial purple sprouting broccoli on the facebook page. I’m just trying biennial kale/ broccoli cross ‘Purple Peacock’ this year to see how it pans out, I think a perennial version all a great idea though.
Very useful info on the variegated form not developing seed. I’m pretty sure you’ve saved me a lot of frustration and wasted time with this, and, heck, a lot of time by offering F2 seeds! You’ll be seeing an email from me soon! I’ll be happy to help forward the breeding project.
I got hold of one last year (via Territorial Seed co), and this year it’s going gangbusters. What is impressive to me is how tender the leaves are. Crunchy and not fibrous. It went from a tiny thing to 3 feet or so this year after overwintering. Decidedly the tastiest kale I’ve grown. Also, besides the “main” leaves, there are a whole lot of tiny sprouts underneath. I.e. it’s “bushier”.
And, unlike the other kales, it isn’t doing the go-to-seed thing. The other kales go to seed … if I trim them, they pop back with more bushiness and tinier leaves, but they never really get back to “normal”. Kosmic though, so far has the big leaves AND the little leaves.
Downsides? My trusty Dino Kale pops up all over, I don’t even need to plant it. ALL kinds of Kale though, seem to be slug bait, unlike a lot of other plants I love. Slug damage is a lot less obvious on Dino Kale though, since the leaves are already odd-shaped. The Kosmic Kale I’ll need to figure out, to get more of it. Propagating it? They say via root cuttings, which for sure I’ll try.
The cabbage worm issue seems to have resolved since I started growing a huge amount of garlic and onions. I love both, and the potato onions are also really interesting. Elephant garlic (really a perennial leek) overwintered beautifully. These seem to repel deer too.
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This is an excellent review. Thanks for sharing!
You may have noticed in some other posts the kosmic I got didn’t last long. So I am glad to hear what it has the potential to be like. I’m curious though: what kind of temps do you hit in your area that it made it through the winter? My mother got a young plant of her own which, although it lived far longer than mine, didn’t take the winter even in the protection of an unheated glasshouse.
I’m intrigued to hear an increased amount of alliums appears to have decreased your cabbage worm problem. Very good to know. I’ll keep it in mind for my own experiments.
I have noticed that this kale is rather sensitive to heat. It’s in an unheated (and unsealed: I keep the doors ajar) greenhouse. But when it starts to warm up, it wilts.
It … and all the other plants … got really big when I started giving them all more worm tea. Worm tea is awesome. I had neglected my worms for 2 years, after I accidentally killed the colony and got discouraged. But they are worth the effort. Worm tea has probiotics that do all the right stuff for plants.
I am also noticing that the non-perennial kale (Dino) is still pretty perennial. Being lazy, I didn’t pull any out: just chopped them down to a few inches of stalk. This year the stalks sprouted, and while they each stalk is giving seed heads, they are all quite edible and stir-fry like little broccolis. As I chop off the heads, they keep getting bushier and bushier.
Our winter this year was very mild, so it’s hard to say what effect it had on the kale. All my kales overwintered just fine. It got down to maybe 25 F. In previous years we’ve gotten to 10, and there were more fatalities. I should mention that all my plants are in containers … grow bags to be exact. So in each bag, I put one plant, and one allium.
Alliums are amazing. My Mom always planted some next to her roses, to prevent aphids. I planted a lot of Costco pre-peeled garlic that was sprouting anyway. It was the wrong time of year, but it still grew and protected the plants. This fall though, I got a bunch of specialized alliums, including heritage garlic, elephant garlic (which is really a leek), potato onions, walking onions, and giant Asian green onions. So far, the elephant garlic is the most happy and productive for greens. The potato onions give the most “green onions”. The giant Asian green onions have the most “heft”.
Some people spray their cabbages with garlic spray to prevent cabbage moths, but I think it’s easier (and more fun) to just have a whole lot of alliums.
So far I have not found anything that repels slugs effectively though. I’m experimenting with bisque “collars” that go around the plant, to prevent them from climbing say, a kale stalk. It does work. Bisque kills slugs: it sucks the water out of their slimy little bodies. I’m trying to grow some lettuces in little bisque pots, placing the pot on some capillary cloth to sub-irrigate the pots.
Ahh. So it does have a rather comfy climate. And with such an attentive gardener as yourself and… worm tea of all things ( I’ve seen the stuff in action before and know what you mean about it doing everything the plant needs) I see why you’ve had success. Good to know that it responds to good care.
Fascinating to hear about your companion planting success. I already have some alliums in my food forest, but I wonder what the effect would be without them? Probably nothing good. You’ve encouraged me to fit in a few more though, for sure.
I would be interested in hearing if your Dino kale goes on past biennial seeding. Good for you to let them go to seed. Why go through all the work of buying more seed not suited to your area every year?
I bought a couple of Kosmic plants from Territorial on suspicion of it being D’aubenton’s after a failed attempt to have a couple of rooted cuttings shipped from the UK. It was vigorous for some time, but developed some sort of fungal disease apparent in the leaves once winter came and the sun got weaker. Now that the days are longer. the new leaves look like they might shake off the problem… but they are just at the growing end. The rest of them have either fallen off or have been cut off on purpose to help it along.
Do you know if this plant will send up new plants from the root system on it’s own the way that Sea Kale does?
I find the raw taste of the Kosmic leaves to be acceptable. A far cry better than raw Sea Kale leaves, but apparently not quite as good as the standard D’aubenton, which I would still love to acquire.
Thanks for this interesting post. I’ve learned a lot, and have even joined that FB group as a result.
Well yes, I can imagine sea kale would be a far cry from kosmic kale, they are in botany anyway. I must commend you for trying to eat them raw.
I certainly haven’t found a kale that can come up from below ground roots as sea kale can. But many can grow back from cutting the plant back to a few inches above the roots.
It doesn’t surprise me that kosmic would have mold issues. It’s just plain finicky. If you haven’t seen my later posts on the plant, and the replacement I’m testing, kosmic died pretty quickly for me and I haven’t tried to get it again. My mother got a plant for herself that lived a little longer and tried sending quite a number of shoots from the stem quite near to the base.
I’ve now moved on to sutherland, which isn’t a ramosa variety as far as I know, but it’s proving much hardier and certainly very edible. Keep in touch to see how it turns out. I hope you’re succesful in getting a legit d’aubenton to try and I’d love to hear if it’s more rugged in comparison.
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Thanks for the great reply. Yes, I’m very interested to learn more about what you’re working with. Sounds promising.
My Daubenton is growing in part shade and is heavily slug eaten (because I haven’t been paying it much attention). It started flowering almost immediately (as an emergency response I suspect)! So I crossed it with plants from a perennial kale mix (originating from kale breeder Chris Homanics). Will grow out the seedlings this year. Also, it seemed that my kale plants were rid of their aphid and caterpillar burden after the skirrets started flowering and attracted a multitude of parasitic wasps (just an observation of course, not a scientific test).
Oh! Very exciting! I’m always keen on hearing about these sort of experiments. I’m currently toying with the variety “Pentland Brigg” for perennial attributes, and having good success (in a greenhouse). Definitely check out the comments below this post for all the info breeders kindly offered. I certainly learned a lot from them about Daubenton and var. ramosa kale in general.
I’ll have to keep and eye out for Homanics now. Never heard of him.
That is very fascinating about the skirret. It certainly isn’t unreasonable to suspect they could have a significant effect on nearby plants. Even if the only effect were the predators they draw in. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate it!
Actually Chris is trixtrax, he has produced a fantastic landrace perennial kale from Daubenton seed I shared with him some years ago, and a number of other perennial kale selections he’d tracked down over the years. Having seen some of the plants people have grown from this seed I can happily recommend it to anyone looking for perennial kale. You can buy seed from his grex here: https://www.mariannasheirloomseeds.com/seed-catalog/special-crosses/chris-homanics-seeds/homesteaders-perennial-kaleidoscopic-kale-grex-new-2016-detail.html
Well thank you for pointing that out! I must have just forgotten, because I went and looked in detail through his and your website years back. Much appreciated. >
Mortaltree, the most recent seeds of this perennial kale project are here -> https://store.experimentalfarmnetwork.org/products/kaleidescope-perennial-kale-grex
I’ll also be putting up an Experimental Farm Network project for working together collaboratively to breed perennial kales
Thank you so much Chris for taking the time to share this here. I will spread the word, and will be happy to contribute to the project. The kale pictured in your link is absolutely fantastic. My only problem is getting kale to overwinter outdoors, but I have had some very promising perennial kale in unheated greenhouses. Thanks again.
As promised the Experimental Farm Network link for the Perennial Kale Breeding Project which is using a participatory plant breeding model to adapt these perennial kales to diverse conditions
Thanks Chris. I’ll add this link to the more recent post too. The young plants I have from the grex are coming along nicely. >
How are your kale seedlings coming along? I would love to see some pics, if you would like to share any
I got about a dozen plants out into our CSA Gardens. Unfortunately never got a picture, sorry. We are having a rather mild winter so far, so I have a hope of some perhaps showing their perennial genetics and getting seed.
But I didn’t win the lottery for color, as they were all green. This surprised me because some seedlings were purple. The most color in the adults was tinges of purple, but not much. They all very much resembled lacinato, but broad.
I never saw the ramosa-type branching. All were savoyed, and single stem like lacinato. I really appreciated how large they got, and thought they were a particularly good quality of leaf. I do plan on getting another batch of seeds this year to see if I have better luck on color. Have you heard back from others how this gen of the gene pool is turning out? The post I released last year has been quite popular and generated a lot of clicks to the experimental store. >