- Author: Betty Homer
I will be the first to admit that I am lazy gardener. I want my plants to produce a crop of food for my consumption with very little work on my part. I have learned that for a dark green leafy vegetable, tree collards are hard to beat (but note that they are susceptible to the same pests and diseases as other brassicas; however, they do seem to bounce back pretty well each year). Other names for Tree Collards include Tree Kale, Walking Stick Kale, and Purple Tree Collard. Tree Collards are a staple in a permaculture landscape. Tree Collards are a highly productive perennial Brassica, producing delicious blue-green, or purple leaves which taste similar to kale. Like most brassicas, Tree Collards are especially sweet during the cooler months of the year (like now). Although their actual origin is unknown, it is believed that they come from Africa, and have been propagated and passed on within African American communities in this country. I have read that Tree Collards can thrive happily for 10-12 years and then be propagated by cuttings to continue(note, however, that there are other resources which say that Tree Collards need to be propagated 2 years after having been propagated from a cutting). The plants can grow 5-6 feet tall or taller and can sprawl 6-8 feet in all directions. Like many plants, Tree Collards need full sun and rich, moist soil, although I have read that they do acceptably in partial shade.
Tree Collards are difficult to find in nurseries because the profit margin on them is low, as these plants take some time to propagate. These plants are generally passed on from gardener to gardener as cuttings. But if you do not know anyone who owns such a plant, places to purchase Tree Collards locally include specialty permaculture nurseries like the one at Merritt College in Oakland, CA, or the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center in Occidental, CA, when they hold their plants sales (note that this may only be seasonal). Another resource is to order Tree Collards from a permaculture nursery on-line.