A place to explore and buy perennial vegetables and other food plants.
This is a very special plant on my allotment because it took me ages to get one! I learnt about the purple tree collard probably from watching John Kohler’s YouTube videos about the perennial vegetables he grows in America. They seemed to be unobtainable here and for ages I couldn’t find anyone who would ship cuttings to the UK, and when I finally did, I failed with them! But London grower, Harry Hašek, who had managed to get some from the US, came to the rescue and we did a plant swap.
Purple tree collards are tall, long-lived perennial kales which can grow to about 240cm. The leaves are green when young but soon turn a gorgeous purply-red colour. The tones seem to be especially vivid in colder weather.
But cold weather may be the one drawback to these plants as they are said to be hardy to only about -5 deg C. My oldest plant has survived two winters outside so far. As it was precious, I did give it a bit of polythene wrapping for protection. The winters were mild so this might not have been necessary. I think I will overwinter some rooted cuttings in a cold greenhouse this winter and let the plants on the allotments take their chances.
The flavour of the leaves is excellent. Not bitter, and yes I suppose I could say they are ‘nutty’ – except that kales are always being described as nutty (I must eat some nuts alongside them and see if they really are!). My favourite kale for flavour is Portuguese kale, with Daubenton a close second. Well purple tree collards come in equal second with Daubenton now! (I’m growing Taunton Deane kale too now, another tall perennial kale, always rated very highly for flavour by those who grow it. But it is a young plant and I haven’t eaten much of it to judge it for myself yet.)
I’ve started to take cuttings of the purple tree collards to sell. There are a few in the shop at the time of writing this post, and I’ll put some more in there as often as I can – so that you can have an easier time getting hold of this lovely plant than I did!