Over the winter of '05-'06, Nick grew out some kale breeding material for Carol in his garden at the Food For Lane County Youth Farm. He did, however, profusely apologetically, agh, neglect, eek, to 'rogue out' a bed of Cascade Glaze collards from the bed alongside the breeding experiment.
Nick has described Cascade Glaze as one of the finest tasting leaf brassicas he has ever encountered. Cascade Glaze is an 1820 heirloom rescued from being almost completely outcrossed in a collaborative effort by Jeff McCormack, Carol Deppe, and Alan Kapuler - former research director for Seeds of Change.
Saving seed this Summer, Nick replanted. Here's an excerpt of a recent email exchange between Nick and Carol. Andrew and Sarah will be carrying seed of the material described in this conversation.
Excerpts from an email to Carol, August 31, 2006
...I was a leeetle late getting to it, but I took seed saved offa your lacinato and seeded it very heavily (up to about 8 seeds per cell) in 2 x 200 cell flats. As I hoped, the first leaves revealed some recognizeable lacinato-glaze crosses. Yippee. I thinned, then transplanted 36 of them into 4" pots. The seedlings are still small (about 2 1/2" high) so will not go into the winter as impressive performers. But they're looking happy.
So, an interesting opportunity to carry the experiment forward, dontcha think? Does a Glaze lacinato hold any interest? I've no idea whether it has been tried. But talk about two fine-tasting plants making whoopie! I know that growouts of F1s in numbers don't really yank people's chains as much as F2s, for reasons I would love fudder explained. But how might that play into this story? Is it worthwhile to get as many as I can in the ground? Your opinions and tangential discursions would be most happreciated.
Excerpts from an email to Nick, September 5, 2006
Hi, Nick –
Crosses between Cascade Glaze and some other pure variety would not show any glaze character in the F1; the glaze is associated with a single gene which is a pure recessive.
However, the plant I selected for crossing to Tuscan kale had a complicated parentage that included the glaze gene. It wasn’t glaze in appearance, but I was hoping it carried glaze, in which case, in the cross to Tuscan, about half the offspring (which you planted this spring) would be carriers for glaze. And this means that, assuming no outcrosses to other material, that about 1/8 of the offspring you’ve got in flats now would be glaze-type. Is that about what you’re getting?
The appearance of glaze doesn’t mean that you got crosses to Cascade Glaze in your patch. Those wouldn’t appear as glaze this year unless the material I gave you already contained glaze. And if it did, glaze would appear at this point even if you hadn’t planted glaze anywhere near.
Yes, it would be interesting to have one or more varieties that combine glaze and tuscan characteristics. And it would also be interesting to have something with the tuscan flavor that had more general vigor, and especially, ability to survive and thrive better in winter. And tuscan flavor/color both with the narrow leaves and with wider ones would all be interesting. Also, the plant I crossed with Tuscan not only had unusual ability to survive and thrive in winter, but outstanding flavor raw. It was actually quite sweet – not just with little leaves, but with huge big ones. None of the ideal characteristics would necessarily show up in the plants from the seed I gave you, since that was an outcross. But all of them will be recombining and showing up now, in the seedlings you have in flats. You might have some crosses to other material nearby, thus some F1s. However, most of the transplants you’re distributing now are a complex F2, and are very good plants to be distributing, given their potential for being foundation plants of many new and interesting varieties.
One characteristic I’m hoping for in new varieties is a succulent stem, so that the leaves can be prepared by chopping whole bundles leaves with a few swift chops. Tuscan kale and Cascade Glaze both have that characteristic; the special plant I crossed to did not. But genes for succulent stems are in this material. So it will be especially valuable to test individual plants of subsequent generations for stem quality. I think we should be able to test for that just with the growing plant by munching part of the stem of an eating-size leaf.
Plants that produce lots of edible biomass are valuable. That is, if the leaves are prime up until they are full size, you get lots more food than if they are tough or unpalatable when big and have to be picked small.
It sounds like this breeding material is doing just what I wanted it to do.
Keep in mind that it is a Brassica oleracea, and plants of that species have an incompatibility system and usually must outcross with somebody. So everyone who is playing with this material will need to have at least a couple plants, and preferably more in order to make sure of having plants with different incompatibility genotypes so that they can fertilize each other. This means that when you’re selecting, you can’t just choose the best plant and eliminate all others. If you do, the chosen plant may not set any seed. Instead, choose the best few plants. Or if there is one good plant, eliminate the worst others before flowering (or prevent them from flowering by removing scapes, so you can eat off them), then let the good plant cross with the others, and save seed from only that good plant. This is selecting mostly on the basis of one parent instead of both. It’s slower, but it does work, and it’s necessary when dealing with a species with an incompatibility system.
It was Cascade Glaze you were growing nearby, wasn’t it? If so, it would also be interesting to save seed from the Cascade Glaze, as some of that might represent crosses with the breeding material I gave you. Was it Cascade Glaze you had nearby? And did you save that seed? If so, I’d like some of that too, if you have it to spare.
You might like to copy this email and pass it along to people who are working with the breeding material.
And then, later:
...Hi, Nick –
The kale seed looks absolutely beautiful. And such a lovely lot of it. Thanks so much. You get a gold star.
If you’re distributing it, though, you shouldn’t call it Deppe’s Tuscan, because it isn’t a pure variety, and it isn’t Tuscan-like – at least, not yet. It’s breeding material. Genetically, it’s about half Tuscan, a quarter Cascade Glaze, and a quarter other things.
And later still...
...I know. Call it “Carol’s Kale-breeder – genetically ½ Tuscan, ¼ Glaze, ¼ other”