Vegetable or tree?

FANCY a green vegetable that can be picked nearly year-round, requires minimal bending, doesn’t need to be replanted, and is super healthy?

The good news is it’s available. The bad news is that you will need to fight to find it.

It’s the tree collard, known misleadingly by a variety of names including tree kale, walking stick kale and tree cabbage. This collard, or open-headed green, does indeed grow on a tree that can get to more than two metres tall.

The edible green leaves, which turn purple over winter, are high in vitamins K, A and C, folate and, claims one proponent, contain more protein by weight than beef.

Sounds good? Don’t get too excited.

Seed is available online, but tree collards don’t grow true to type when reproduced from seed, so the average gardener needs to grow them from cuttings. Hence the supply shortage.

First you need to find an already growing tree, with an owner happy to share. Or cuttings can sometimes be sourced on eBay.

Cuttings are best taken from trees less than three years old, as trees tend to become woody after that stage.

Described botanically as a form of Brassica oleracea var. acephala, tree collards have been grown in parts of the world as stock feed but have recently been rediscovered by health conscious humans with a taste for nutty, sweetish brassicas.

As leaves tend to become smaller as trees age, it pays to keep a new tree or two coming through. Adaptable to a wide range of conditions, they prefer nutritious soil and regular watering over dry periods.

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