After some extensive searching I finally found a place to buy tree collards in my area. For years I have watched you tube gardeners John Kohler from growing your greens and Jake Mace the Vegan Athlete talk about them, but wasn’t confident enough to try a mail order source for cuttings. I found Michael, a Master Gardener in phoenix with rooted plants available http://arizona-collard-trees.simplesite.com/ He is a very knowledgeable and generous man. He had about 100 plants in various sizes. I bought 3 1 gal. plants from him and as we were leaving he gifted me the huge one in the picture above. Exciting huh? It is a beauty!! We haven’t come up with a name for him yet.
I learned a lot from Master Gardener Michael. The plants take a lot of water and shade in the Arizona sun. It is only April, but he said it is too hot to put them in the ground now. His advice is to leave them in the pots until fall and then move them to shady spot in the garden. Finding a shady spot in my garden is going to be a challenge, but I have 6 months to find a way. It is probably because I live in the desert, but these plants are more particular than I imagined they would be. All the info I found said they were easy to grow. Day 3 I didn’t water the big boy enough before a warm day and he wilted. It was scary. With water and sunset he perked up and is doing fine again. They will need to on a drip system with a twice daily schedule this summer. My larger plant will probably out grow his 15 gal. pot soon too. Michael had ground planted about 10 of his bigger plants in full sun and mulched with a foot of straw. His garden looks like a tree collard forest! He said it was an experiment, but hoped they would do well since he put them out when the weather was still cool and they have time to acclimate before the temps in Phoenix hit 110+. He also told me to pinch off the new top growth to encourage side shoots to make cuttings for propagation. There are quite a few videos on you tube demonstrating how to take and root the cuttings. I will try this later in the season and let you know how it goes. For now, I will just let my big boy grow. Remember Hey, Hey, Hey….. Fat Albert? I think the big guy has a name!
Tree collards are Brassica oleracea, like cabbage and broccoli. The 3 types I am familiar with are the Green Tree collard (like mine), The Purple Tree collard and Tree Kale or walking stick kale. The Green and purple tree collards don’t bolt very often and when they do the seeds may not be true to the parent plant. Planting these seeds is a gamble. The Walking stick kale flower and seed every year, the seeds grow a true walking stick kale. They grow straight and tall, perfect to make a walking stick with after the season is over. Several seed companies offer the seeds online. Maybe next year, I will try some. There may be other varieties that I haven’t come across yet.
Perennial Tree Collard leaves are rich in calcium (226 mg per cup, cooked), vitamins B1, B2, B9, and C, as well as beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A). They are high in soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties: diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium. The leaves are very fleshy, almost succulent like. At first the taste didn’t impress me. The smaller tender leaves taste like cabbage and the larger leaves are tougher and bitter. It feels and tastes like chewing on the core of a head of cabbage. Either the flavor improved now that Albert has had a few days to settle in, or I am just more tolerant of the bitterness. I munched on a larger leaf as I worked outside today and actually enjoyed it. The gardeners on Jake Mace”s Facebook group had lots of suggestions and recipes for me to try. Tomorrow for lunch I plan to stir fry a leaf with some garlic and see how it tastes. If I think it will pass as food for my husband, then next weekend we will have a corned beef and Tree Collard feast.