The Lab: Don't Step on the Magic Kale

Jul 03, 2020

When our video team arrived at Quail Springs last week to begin filming a permaculture course, we gathered at their outdoor dining area for an initial meeting. As we set down our gear, I noticed a lonely kale plant sprouting from the otherwise barren, compacted walkway. 

“Hey, how did this kale end up growing here?!” I remarked. There’s nothing like a good kale chat to break the ice with permaculturists.

“Ssshhhh! Pretend it’s not there,” whispered Molly, the Quail Springs program director, dramatically averting her eyes from the incongruous green growth. “We haven’t ever watered it and we don’t want it to realize it’s not where it’s supposed to be. We’re waiting for its magic seeds.”

Quail Springs is in the high desert with average summer temperatures well above 90ºF. You wouldn’t know it from their verdant, shaded food forest, but the farm was once a rural airplane landing strip, concrete-hard.

Each year, the plants that do particularly well are allowed to go to seed, which the Quail Springs farm team then collects and plants the next year. For more than a decade they have been cultivating vegetable varieties that thrive in their harsh environment. 

So to them, this wayward Siberian kale is more than just a curiosity, it represents prime genetics, much too precious to eat. Instead, they are waiting (oh so quietly) with hopes of many generations of magic kale to come.

Do you have any plants in your garden you are saving for seed? Or plants growing in unusual places?

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