Brassica Growout Update

Brassica Growout Update

To keep our cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and Brussells sprouts seeds strong and alive for the future we are going to have to work very hard.

For many years now the range of varieties available has been getting less and less. We have less than 10% of the cultivars left that we had 100 years ago, and recently we have discovered that 90% of the open pollinates (those varieties that were developed from the heritage lines after the Second World War for early commercial growers) are gone as well. This means our food in the shops is almost totally grown from hybrid seed which we know does not contain essential nutrition needed to keep us strong and healthy. We must act now!!!!

Brassicas are traditionally a very important part of our diet and nutrition especially in the winter months so it feels very important that we return to a process that will keep our seed strong for the future

Brassicas are far more difficult to grow to seed than most other crops and they are at a greater risk of being lost than most other crops

Growing brassicas to seed requires a space that is 2 kms from other flowering brassicas and it requires more space than the average home gardener has to do the job. For detailed information on growing brassicas for seed see the Seed Saving information in the Seed Catalogue section. Suffice to say it is a difficult job. It is a two year process to do a comprehensive growout. The Institute will need to do this for each brassica it holds in its collection every ten years.

We estimate it will cost $4,000 over 2 years to do a comprehensive growout.  The seed companies used to do this but no longer do and connections we have say that brassica seed is weakening world wide because of this.

If we do the comprehensive grow outs here at Koanga each year, and each line needs this done every 10 years, then we can hold 10 brassicas in our collection and know they will be strong for the long haul. We will be very certain to be selecting for northland conditions and over time these 10 cultivars will be very special.

In the last catalogue we requested your help to make this a success, because this will never be an economic thing to do.

Our aim is to have $4,000 worth of adoptive parents to do this each year. The names of all the ‘parents’ will be listed in our catalogue (and website) each year.

So far this year we have raised $410 as part of this scheme. People who have donated so far are listed below:


n Mary Corker

n Helen Van Asch

n Chris Penniall

n Michael Lawn

n P R Swanton

n Jane, Robert & Lola


If you’d like to ADOPT A BRASSICA we’d love to hear from you. You can choose to donate any amount of money, every dollar will help. Thirty adoptive parents at $100 will cover each years grow out. We have budgeted $1,000 towards the total cost of $4,000 from our membership fees i.e. all of our members are contributing.

Last season we grew out the Ruapehu cauliflower and the Mammoth Red cabbage

The ruapehu cauliflower is an old early commercial NZ cultivar which is a very good one and as our growout was a success it is now available to you in this catalogue.

The Mammoth Red Cabbages were a huge draw card in the garden, the heads were stunning, however they didn’t go up to seed last summer and so we have to wait another year for the seed. Sometime this happens with brassicas when they are planted too late in  Autumn for them to fully mature before the solstice. This often means they take another year to go to seed. These cabbages were long season cabbages and took a long time to heart up. Hopefully we’ll have good news this summer; they were the most stunning red cabbages I’ve ever seen.

We also have January King cabbages in the ground for next summer. January King is another endangered cabbage, a beautiful large semi savoy, heart, excellent flavour and beautiful, with purple colouring on the outside leaves.

If you would like to become part of the Adopt a Cabbage scheme please send a cheque to Koanga Institute, RD2, Maungaturoto stating that the donation is to adopt a cabbage.  1