Cabbage, kale, and broccoli seed reviews

greensI do love me some brassicas.  I grow more varieties of them than any other plant family.  Some people like tomatoes…I’ll have fifteen or more kinds of kale, collards, broccoli, and such growing most years.

These are my notes on several varieties of brassicas I’ve grown recently – what grows well, what tastes great, what keeps well, etc. Obviously, it’s not an exhaustive list – feel free to add your own experience in the comments!  I’ve highlighted my current favorites in bold; I’ve quit growing things in gray due to poor performance.  The rest I grow occasionally, or even regularly, though they aren’t standouts for any particular reason. (Note: I garden in south-central Michigan, in zone 5, in a fairly open and cold microclimate.)

If you’re looking for great greens, check out Wild Garden Seed. Frank and Karen Morton are doing a lot of old-fashioned plant breeding on leafy greens.  All their varieties are open-pollinated (to my knowledge), so you get the best advantages of “new” varieties with the advantages and ethos of open-pollinated heirlooms. The Wild Garden Kale listed below is their work, sold through Bountiful Gardens.  I love that that variety was marketed as a diverse gene pool from which to select your own hyper-local variety!

Crop Variety Source Germination Notes
Kale “Wild Garden” Flat-leaf type Bountiful Gardens Good for 2 years, then 50/50 Vigorous grower; handles cold well and overwinters reliably in hoop house. Very productive. Have seen 3 leaf colors/shapes so far. Good taste – a staple in my garden, unless seed proves unreliable after only 2 years. Saved seed last year – will see if its longevity is better than the packet I bought.
Kale Improved Siberian Flat-leaf type  Territorial Very strong Haven’t grown to harvest yet, but this is the most vigorous sprouter I have this year. I have high hopes for this one.
Kale Winterbor F1Curly type  ? Johnny’s? Good Good curly type. Handles cold well. Same packet of seeds sprouted strongly for 9 years until I ran out.
Kale Dwarf Vates F1 Curly type  NK Good Reliable but not a standout in any way.
Kale Lacinato/Dino Seeds of Change Ok – not as good as other kales Exceptional taste; preferred by husbands and cabbage loopers. Not as productive as leaf kales.
Broccoli Purple Peacock Bountiful Gardens Ok first year, mediocre second year, dud third year The most delicious and beautiful broccoli I’ve ever eaten. Less yield than most broccolis the first year, and leaves too small to amount to much. Almost no harvest 2nd year; no germination 3rd year. Too “fussy” for my garden?
Broccoli Early Green Seeds of Change Good My standard broccoli. Loose head, lots of side shoots. Heads taste great even when flowering.
Broccoli Happy Rich F1 Johnny’s Good Earler and more prolific than Early Green; my main problem is harvesting it before it flowers. Still tasty in flower.
Broccoli Di Cecco Seeds of Change Good I don’t care for it – I like a looser head, and it’s fussy about harvest. Can rot on the stem if not harvested; flowering ruins it.
Cabbage Winningstadt (early)  Johnny’s Poor Scanty germination the first year; none at all the second year.
Cabbage January King (storage)  Johnny’s Good Cold weather champ. Gorgeous purple-green leaves all winter in greenhouse. I planted it late so got no heads last year, but loose leaves were tasty and hardy. Resprouted vigorously in the spring.
Collards Georgia  Bountiful Gardens Good Good summer harvests and kept well into winter, even outside. Not as good as Wild Kale and January King in the spring after overwintering. Collards are less tender than kale.
Turnip Purple top Ferry Morse organic Very good Go-to table turnip.  Very easy to grow. Makes a crop of small roots and big leaves in a very short time – I always plant-a-row or two of these for the food bank. Cover with row cover for bug-free roots.
Turnip Hakurei Johnny’s Good Pretty amazing to eat raw – not good cooked or pickled. Mild and sweet. A new favorite.
Turnip Golden Globe  Burpee Good Can’t eat out of hand like Hakurei but are decent turnips for cooking.
Kohlrabi Superschmeltz Turtle Tree Poor Have never raised one to harvest
Rutabaga American Purple Top Ferry Morse Fair Hard to germinate in the summer for fall harvest
Rutabaga Bora Bountiful Gardens Fair Hard to germinate in the summer for fall harvest
Mustard Greens Mizuna Seeds of Change Very Good Very vigorous, high yields. Bolts somewhat quickly, though the florets taste pretty good. Actually grows faster than we can eat it.
Mustard Greens  ? Big, purple-veined leaves  Seeds of Change Very Good Very vigorous, high yields. More peppery than we like, though my heat-loving friends snapped it up. Easy to grow; grows more than we can eat.
Radish Podding Johnny’s Very Good Three plants made a hedge 4′ tall, 6′ wide, and 2′ deep. Thousands of pods; they taste like a snow pea with a snappy radish flavor.  Again, produced more than we could possibly eat from 3 plants.  Good raw; would like to try them stir-fried.
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8 Comments

  1. Ed Bruske said,

    April 17, 2011 at 10:57 am

    We love our brassica, too, Emily. But we don’t have very good luck with the cabbage and broccoli. We stick to the leafy varieties. Lacinato kale, Red Russion, green glazed collards–these are some of our favorites.

    • Emily said,

      April 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      I definitely do better with the leafies, too. I want to try heading cabbage again to see if I can get it to overwinter in the greenhouse instead of the root cellar. I can get huge, 8lb summer cabbages for $2 and smaller fall storage cabbages for thee same price at the market, so I’ve not often bothered to allot cabbage the space and time in the garden. But storage is my priority now, and the keeping qualities of the market cabbages is hit or miss.

  2. April 17, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Nice to see your reviews! I’ve given up on cabbages for spring since the cabbage moths devastate them. I’ll put in red and savoy cabbages as soon as the garlic comes out of its beds. I’m relying on lacinato kale and piracicaba for the spring and summer. I have no interest in trying to fight the cabbage moths over standard heading broccoli types. I was fascinated to see during initial trials last year that the piracicaba plants were utterly ignored by the cabbage moths, and they also lived up to their reputation of tolerating both heat and cold. I found the hakurei turnips especially delicious as an ingredient in l-f kimchi last year. Kohlrabi does okay for us; I just can’t get terribly excited about it as a vegetable.

    • Emily said,

      April 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      Wow! I’ve never heard of piracicaba. If the bugs hate it, I might have to try it. I go to some pretty extreme lengths to screen the moths out of my brassicas!

  3. Diana Dyer said,

    April 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Emily – this is a great post. I’m going to provide a shout-out and a link to it on my http://www.365DaysofKale.com blog!
    Diana

    • Emily said,

      April 20, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Woohoo! A nod from the Kale Queen! 🙂

  4. April 24, 2011 at 11:41 am

    […] Sowing VegetablesKohlrabi, radish and turnip can still be sown outside! About the experiences with certain varieties: http://j.mp/fhLN0W […]

  5. varmentrout said,

    April 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    I’m stunned. I’ve always had happy results with heading cabbage and now have several favorite varieties. My very all-time favorite is Tendersweet (Johnny’s) http://jardindevoltaire.blogspot.com/2009/08/mon-petit-chou.html which is a summer cabbage.

    Storage (yes, it is named that), also from Johnny’s gave late-maturing heads that I harvested Nov. 3 last year, and stored in my garage. We only finished the coleslaw from the last sweet tender head about a week ago.

    I’ve kept seeds over a couple of years and had no trouble with germination.


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