How to Save Kale Seed

How to Save Kale Seed l Save seed to use next year with these simple steps l Homestead Lady (.com)Learning to save kale seed is a simple process, I promise – don’t let the idea of seed saving scare you.  If you’re new to seed saving, kale is a good seed to learn how to save in seven easy steps!

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If saving seeds is your thing, try doing it with friends!  Be sure to read the Seed Swap section of our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead.  Don’t have your own copy?  Click below to see what it’s about!  If you’d like to read a sample from the book, just email me at  Be sure to let me know it’s the Seed Swap section you’re interested in.  With eight chapters of homesteading how-to’s and over 400 pages of homesteading information, there’s bound to be a lot that will interest you!

Seed Saving Season

It’s that time of year when canning (yes, we did just pick nearly 100 pounds of sweet cherries but that’s another post) and seed saving season begin.  My fall planted veggies from last year are starting to go to seed so, let the games begin!

The parsley is shouting huzzah, with the many arms of its seed heads ready to erupt like fireworks.  The onion seed heads, though more stately in their progress, are nonetheless lovely on their graceful stalks.

It was the kale that won the race to seed production this year, though, so we begin our seed saving journey with it.

Why Plant Kale?

Kale is extremely nutritious and versatile in recipes.  Check out one of my favorite kale recipes from The Elliot Homestead.

May I just tell you that kale chips are a pleasantly good snack.  A bowl full of washed kale (which is full of vitamins and minerals, by the way), enough cold pressed olive oil to coat the leaves, sea salt and a bit of cayenne all mixed together can be laid out on the sheets of your dehydrator and dried at the living foods setting (around 105) to make an incredible raw kale chip.

The kale plants also very cold hardy and grow with relative ease in the garden.  Once November hit our region, I covered my kale plants with horticultural plastic.  Winter winds shredded my two year old horticultural plastic and December found my lovely kale naked and exposed.  Amazingly, they did just fine with a thick mulch of straw on their feet for the rest of winter.  They would get frozen but once the sun warmed them, their turgidity returned.

This spring , my kale was the first plant out of the starting gate, long before anything else was awake.  We were able to harvest leaves all season, even while it sent up its seed stalk, flowered and set seed.  Pests rarely ultimately destroy kale.  When things are in balance, you may not even notice bad bugs on your plants, except maybe some aphids.  We had once year when Brassica moths ate every single leaf on my plants but, after they moved on with the season, the kale plants bounced right back with new growth.  These plants are amazing!

What Kind of Kale Seed to Save?

All the kales create seed in the same way, so you can save seed easily from any of them.  If you have two or more varieties planted and they flower at the same time, be prepared for a little cross breeding.  However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – you might become famous for your kale original seed!  If you don’t want to cross varieties, plant one variety this year and another variety next year.

Last fall, I planted Vates and Red Russian kale, from which we harvested leaves throughout the fall and into the winter.  For various kale varieties, feel free to check out our affiliates below:

Saving Kale Seed

Being a member of the Brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, etc.), kale is very much obliged to set seed for you, especially once the spring weather warms to summer.

The Gardening Notebook is the ultimate gardening tool. This printable notebook has over 120 pages of

The Seed Stalks

Each plant will send up stalks that can get quite tall.  Our tallest this year measured somewhere between a three and a five-year-old child.  The stalks are a bit brittle and in high wind will detach from the mother plant.  Sadly, this can happen before the seed has time to mature.  If you’ve got stalks breaking off, tie up the stalks around a stake of bamboo for support.

The Seed Pods

Once the green seed pods (which look like small, skinny green beans) have fattened up and started to dry out, move fast to get the seed preserved.  If you wait, the seed will drop anywhere it pleases to reseed itself in your yard.  Sometimes your neighbor’s yard, if the birds or wind get involved.

The Seed Saving Process

  1. Once the seed pods are ripe and beginning to dry out, cut the stalks at the bottom of the plant.
  2. Then, invert them into a large paper bag and wait for them to dry the rest of the way.
  3. Hang the paper bags (paper is best because it breathes) some place where they won’t get too hot and won’t be exposed to dust or wind.
  4. If you’re in a place prone to summer humidity, just do a few stalks per bag so that you don’t end up with mold.
  5. Once you feel like the pods have finished drying, flail (or bang) the stalks against the side of the bag to dislodge the seeds.
  6. Toss the dried stalks into your compost or see if your goats will eat them. (Be prudent with raw Brassicas fed to your ruminants as too much can cause bloat – the dried stalks should be fine.)
  7. Start winnowing out the chaff by dumping the contents of your bag either through a screen or onto a sheet.

Kale seeds are small, dark and round.  They are usually easy to distinguish in the midst of all the dried out seed casings and aphid corpses that will also be in residence at the bottom of the brown paper bag.

More on Winnowing your Kale Seed

To “winnow” is to clean away all the chaff (seed casings and gunk) from your seed.

To filter the seeds from the chaff you can use window screening, a mesh strainer, a colander or a very loose weave cheese cloth.  Really anything that will allow the small seed to fall through, but trap the larger particles of “stuff” will work just fine.

You can also just dump them onto a white sheet and call seed cleaning a Family Night activity!

To see the process of this (although it’s with leek seeds), click here.

A Special Note on Aphids

Aphids can be a nuisance on Brassicas but they don’t usually harm the seed.  Aphids can easily be controlled with a strong jet of water from your hose.  With soft-bodied, plant-killing insects, a few hours away from their food source and they die.  Even if you harvest your seed stocks with a few aphids, they wont live long enough to do any damage to the seed, even if they could.

Learn more garden tricks and keep great notes on your garden each year with The Gardening Journal – just click below to learn more.

The Gardening Notebook is the ultimate gardening tool. This printable notebook has over 120 pages of

How to Store Kale Seed

How much kale seed do you get?  That entirely depends on how many seed stocks your plant sends up and how much seed you take time to save.  We’ve saved hundreds of seed from one plant.  Needless to say, you will probably have enough for most backyard gardening purposes.

You will have copious amounts of seed so make sure you have paper envelopes and/or glass jars handy to store and label the seed.  Ideally, you would be taking generous seed samples from multiple of the best plants you have in order to preserve beautiful biodiversity.  If you’re like me, you’ll just thank your lucky stars that you remembered to save out even one or two plants for seeds as you ravenously consumed every kale leaf in sight the season before.

Random Kale Seed Notes

Like I said, kale will cross pollinate with other brassicas and, therefore, with itself.  My Vates flowered later than my Red Russian so I’m hoping I didn’t cross too badly, if at all.

Seed saving is something I’m still learning to do even after several years of practice.  It’s also one more thing to factor into the planning of the garden each year.  Much like a plant, sometimes I thrive and sometimes my brain wilts.

As far as the varieties go, of the two, I liked the Vates the best.  Vates has great flavor, tidy leaves, not too much curling/ruffling, is hardy and pretty.

The Red Russian was also very hardy and had lovely red undertones.  However, it wasn’t quite as good in salads because it’s a little on the tough side when raw.  I’m saving the seed, though, because in stir fries and soups it was yummy.  The Scotch is a great one, too, and so is the Dinosaur kale.  Basically, I haven’t met a kale I didn’t like.

What Seed Are You Saving?

So what seed are you saving this year?  If the thought of doing any seed saving is new to you, don’t worry, that’s why God invented next year.

If you’re entirely new to gardening or still getting your feet wet, I highly recommend the two different levels of gardening in our book The Do It Yourself Homestead.   With 400 pages of homesteading information, including gardening (of course), all presented in four different levels of experience, you’re bound to find something helpful to you!  But don’t just take my word for it – here’s what fellow garden nerd and author Chris MacLaughlin has to say:

A gardener's praise for The Do It Yourself Homestead

DisclaimerInformation offered on the Homestead Lady website is for educational purposes only. Read my full disclaimer HERE.

The cover photo of the kale plant is gratefully attributed to this Wikimedia Commons user; the cover photo of the kale flower is gratefully attributed to this Wikimedia Commons user.

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11 thoughts on “How to Save Kale Seed

  1. We have grown blue curled vates in st Louis Missouri area for many years. After starting seeds indoors in the late winter, then planting the plants in early to mid April, we pick kale all summer and fall and often into the winter. Plants that are not completely consumed by us are usually left until the garden is tilled in the Spring. We have two kale plants in the garden right now, with NO seed pods. They are healthy, and the leaves look ‘ok’…not perfect. Should I leave them in, this year, to see if they form seed pods?




    1. What a great question, Wayne! Thank you for alerting me to the fact that I hadn’t explained that part well enough – I’ll amend the post to have this information.

      Yes, leave your kale plants in the garden this year. Kale is a biennial, meaning it needs two years to fully complete it’s life cycle. Most people grow it only as an annual, though, because not everyone is thinking about saving seed. This spring, you can harvest some of the leaves of your year old plants, but they’ll send up stocks this year with lovely flowers. Leave them and let them set seed which you can harvest this fall – the seeds are round and black, like any Brassica. Keep an eye on the pods because the plant will set A LOT of seed and it will reseed itself if you don’t get to the seed collection in time. I harvest seed and let some drop, that way I don’t have to plant, if I don’t want to and the plants come up when they’re ready the next spring. Our zone 5 winters don’t bother kale and, if covered, I can pretty much harvest mine year round – even if my leaves freeze, they usually thaw when picked just fine. I love kale for so many reasons but cold heartiness is certainly one of them.

      Did that answer your question? So glad you asked it!

  2. I have a question. I’ve been harvesting the seed pods from my kale, and yesterday when I was opening them, some had little worms or some sort of larva that seems to eat into the seed. Any ideas what they could be?

    1. Probably some sort of cabbage moth since kale is in the cabbage family. If the seeds aren’t damaged, you can put them in the freezer to kill the bugs and then shuck them/clean them up. If you have seeds that don’t have the bugs, just save those and give the buggy ones to the chickens, if you have them.

  3. It’s raining pretty hard & I forgot to harvest the seed pods already – any way I can dry them out inside still or is it too late?

    1. It’s never too late, Joey! Cut the seed stalks, bring them in and let them either dry hanging upside down or on a screen. Put something underneath so catch any falling seed. If you live in a humid area, place a fan on low nearby and have it oscillate. Good luck!

  4. My kale (first year) is seeding but about 30% of the seed pods have gone brown and have ripped ends, perhaps some sort of disease?
    I wish I could send you a photo. The rest are still green

    1. That is super weird, James! The early drying might be due to simple water reduction or heat of summer, but the ripped ends? If it were some other plant like beans, I might suspect raccoons or squirrels of pilfering your seed harvest. But kale seeds don’t seem like they’d be tasty to me.

      Do you have a local extension office you can take them to? You could even just snap a photo and email it to them for their best guess. If you figure it out, let me know what that turns out to be!

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