10. October 2018

Collecting sea kale seeds

I picked plenty of sea kale seeds on my trip to the Swedish west coast, and I hope that I will be able to grow it at home! This kale is not only delicious, it reminds me of my childhood too.

Sara bär ett barn på ryggen och plockar frö av strandkål framför vackra klipphällar. Collecting sea kale seeds, Sara is picking the seeds.

I managed to find plenty of sea kale here on the island Styrsö in the archipelago of Gothenburg.


I grew up in the archipelago here on the west coast of Sweden, and I remember seeing sea kale nestled everywhere between the rugged crags. The large matte leaves were spreading out next to the hogweeds, sloe berries and beach roses that grow here. I didn't know what they were back then, but I'm all the wiser now. I have been longing to grow sea kale at home for ages! One of my favorite spots here on the southern archipelago of Gothenburg is called Styrsö, and there's plenty of sea kale here.


Sea kale is a delicacy

The perennial sea kale is a true delicacy, on par with asparagus in my opinion. It pops up early in the season and you can grow the pale little shoots underneath a bucket, just like how you grow forced rhubarb.

I haven't had the opportunity to try it myself though, since all of my attempts to grow sea kale have failed. I did manage to grow a bunch of plants that survived all summer. But then of course winter came, the sea kale got too wet and started to rot.


Närbild på skadade matta gröna blad på marken. Collecting sea kale seeds, plenty of leaves on the ground.

The sea kale looks a bit worse for wear in fall.


Närbild på ett flor av runda fröer som sitter direkt på torkade grenar på strandkålen. Collecting sea kale seeds, plenty of circular seeds.

These are the sea kale seeds, hundreds of circular seeds that fall down into the seaweed below, when the plant starts to wither down.


Hard to grow

Most other kale varieties have small and circular seeds. But the sea kale seeds are large, black and enclosed in a shell. You can sow the seeds in spring or fall, but don't expect them to germinate right away. It might take as long as a year before they peek out from the soil, so you need to be both patient and remember where you put them.


Sara sitter vid en planta och visar frön som ligger i handen. Collecting sea kale seeds, Sara is showing the seeds.

I'm collecting a few handfuls of these seeds, I will break the outer shell when I get home.


Sea kale is protected in some areas here in Sweden, but not here on the west coast. So, the plan is to bring an entire plant with me when we go back home. I hope it will work!

I also decided to pick plenty of seeds. My pockets are full! The idea is to simulate self-sowing (by cracking the shells open to help the process along.) I have some seaweed at home and I was thinking about sowing my seeds in a pallet collar bed with sand and seaweed. We will see what happens!


Read more - When should I start using pallet collars?


You can of course also buy sea kale seeds in the garden shop. I have noticed that the seeds come in quite small packets in the store. That makes wonder how many seeds each plant actually produces. There are plenty of seeds on the ground here after all. I'm guessing that they don't germinate as efficiently here in this harsh environment, and that's why so many seeds are needed. I think I'll try to bring home as many seeds as possible, just to be sure!


Recreating the coastal environment

I think I will try to recreate a coastal environment for my sea kale at home. I'm just not sure how to do that. Watering with salt water seems like a good idea. I heard that the plants can get quite large in their first season, which I'm guessing is a good survival tactic in this unforgiving climate out on the crags. They should not be harvested until their second year though, so that's what I plan to do.


En bild på havet som slungar upp skummande vågor mot klipporna. Collecting sea kale seeds, a picture of the ocean waves.

This environment is probably not optimal for us humans, but the sea kale thrives here.


En hop människor står på en klippa med havet i bakgrunden. Collecting sea kale seeds, a group of people with the ocean in the background.

We went on a long walk out on the cliff and celebrated with some warm drinks by the ocean. Lovely!


Remembering my childhood

It's really fascinating to see these plants survive in this unforgiving place. Sea kale, sloe berries and beach roses. All of them edible. And then there's plenty of seaweed here too of course!

This place (called Salskärs udde) is my favorite spot on this island. I remember it looking quite different as a child though. There was less sloe here back then and I remember that there used to be these fascinating old military bunkers hidden all over the island. They have been destroyed now though, but the stories live on. I tell them to my delighted children who run wild here, playing in the strong ocean winds! Just like I used to when I was little. My mother actually used to hold lectures about kelp here and I remember sitting on the cliffs right by the water, watching them fish it out from the sea. I could sit here for hours, dressed from head to toe in rain clothes, just watching the waves roll in. The bigger, the better.


Read more - My daily inspiration: Gardening with kids


My hope is that at least a handful of these sea kale seeds will grow at home, so I can bring both the kale and the memories back to my own garden. I'm planning on making a video about it later, stay tuned!
/Sara Bäckmo

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