February 14—28, 2016
Mt. Washington — Justin Torrico, a gifted Berkshire farmer, teacher and seeker, first planted Georgia Collards (Brassica oleracea) several years ago. He overwintered the plants in protected locations or under cover, and allowed them to flower and go to seed the second summer. Collards are biennial, i.e. they flower and produce seed the second year. He describes cleaning the harvested seed at the edge of a driveway where he soon found seedlings growing everywhere in the depleted soil. Thinking ecologically, Torrico began to repeatedly, over the course of years, collect the seeds of the plants that were quickest to germinate (out pace weeds), grew well in poor soil and proved most frost hearty, with the goal that they will overwinter in our region without special care.
I got wind of the experiment and, never having grown collards, begged seed. I’d heard that when suppliers can’t keep up with the demand for kale, they promote collards. It wasn’t until I harvested an onion bed at the end of July that I put my gift seeds – from the fifth generation of selection – in the ground. It was three months after I’d planted kale. After the initial babying, the plants received no attention. Their growth was dramatic and the plants handsome. The collards survived many nights in the teens and single digits before I finally harvested the leaves on New Year’s Day. They looked like they could keep going. The stems are still in the ground, a part of the experiment to see if they will survive frigid temperatures.
Justin bought his original seed from the Seed Saver’s Exchange (SSE). Thinking of collards, most of us picture a stewed vegetable originating in the American south. According to the SSE, “It is thought that collard greens were grown in Asia Minor as far back as 5000 BCE. By 1600 they were cultivated globally.” Collards may be eaten raw or cooked. I find them tender and delicious when shredded and briefly sauteed to a brilliant green. Comparisons of nutritional values of kale to collards vary; here’s one report https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/08/15/kale-competitors- how-do-other-greens-stack-up
The Seed Saver’s Exchange offers many ways of procuring heirloom flower and vegetable seeds and books to learn about seed saving, starting plants ahead of the growing season and gardening. SSE publishes an attractive volume, The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving, edited by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel, the former an Edge contributor who is affiliated with Berkshire Botanical Garden. For the Berkshire Botanical Garden’s full roster of seasonal workshops, click here.
Mad Gardeners, as in “mad about gardening,” is an association of remarkable gardeners and stewards of the land active in our region, most notably in Litchfield County, Conn. This year’s upcoming symposium, Designer’s Vision, is a double bill that promises a day of profound inspiration for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. Distinguished landscape architect Patrick Chasse will offer two sessions – “Back to the Future: A Portfolio of Northeast Landscapes” and “Space is the Place,” an interactive opportunity. Internationally renowned public garden designer and author Lynden B. Miller’s presentation is titled “Designing the Garden: Form, Color, and Texture.” Become acquainted with the significance of her work and tenor of her career through her website and this video: https://www.publicgardendesign.com/lyndens-video.html
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