A kale of a tale: That time Canada was running out of kale seeds

October 1, 2019

A decade ago, could you have imagined a rush on kale seeds?

A decade ago few people could have imagined a rush on kale seeds. But with the rapid rise in popularity of the healthy, nutrient-rich green, that’s exactly what happened.

It’s easy to forget that when a crop gets popular, so do its seeds. So for a time, farmers in Canada seeking kale seeds, especially organic kale seeds, had a hard time meeting their needs.

Seed security is at the heart of our work. Farmers have seed security when they have good quality, affordable seeds of their choice at the time of planting, which are adapted to their environments and meet their communities needs.

The SeedChange domestic program trains and supports seed growing farmers to ensure that we have a ready supply of high quality seeds. This includes breeding and selecting better kale seeds specifically adapted to the Canadian climate and landscape. Through careful seed selection, farmers can choose from a myriad of traits of interest such as early growth, heat tolerance, great taste, colour, shape and disease resistance to produce the best possible seeds.

Although they look quite different, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower are all the same species (Brassica oleracea), each descended from wild cabbage. Each variety came about through selective breeding according to the tastes, culture and geography of those who harvested and saved their seeds.

Just think, if our ancestors had selected one seed over another, there might not be any broccoli, cabbage or kale today! Admittedly some people might cheer the possibility of this alternative cabbage-free existence. But the culinary, nutritional and economic benefits of the cabbage family will likely always have its supporters.

Interested in growing kale yourself? The Ecological Seed Finder lists more than 50 different varieties of kale grown across Canada.

Looking for ideas for what to do with all that kale? Check out these recipes to start. Lastly, support our work to keep farmer seed growing initiatives at the heart of a healthy, secure food future.