SE Seed Video: Collards

Thanks to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for sponsoring the Collard episode:

How To Save Collard Seeds

How To Save Collard Seeds explores seed saving, seed growing and seed heritage in the Southeast USA. Interviews with farmers and growers across the south tell a story of seed heritage deeper than any one variety. Take a deep dive into saving collard seeds to learn both the technical side of saving seeds and the reasons why it’s so important.

Brassica oleracea var. vidris: Collards heralded from the cold climate of Northern Europe and arrived in New England in the early days of colonization. Originally called coleworts and later known as collards, this food crop was considered inferior to its close relative, the cabbage. When collards made their way to the southeast via the east coast seed trade, they were readily adopted by enslaved Africans. Collards may not have been something they were already familiar with, but a culinary tradition of cooking with dark leafy greens and an appreciation of their nutritive sustenance resonated with African cooks. The Heirloom Collard Project has done extensive work to document the legacy of collards and profile the incredible diversity of this distinctly African American crop – learn more at

LIFE CYCLEBiannual, Vernalization requirement
SPACING18-24 inches in rows at least 36 inches apart
POLLINATIONPerfect, self incompatible flowers, Cross pollinated by insects
ISOLATION DISTANCE800 feet – ½ mile
SEED LIFE6 years
POPULATION SIZEViable seeds: 5 plants
Variety Maintenance: 20-50 plants
Genetic Preservation: 80 plants
SCREEN SIZE3/64 – 8/64 inch
SEED BORNE DISEASESBlack rot, Black leg, Alternaria diseases can be treated with 20 min at 122 F
Other: Xanthomonas leaf spot, black spot, fusarium wilt, peppery leaf spot, verticillium wilt, white rust/blister

This video features:

Ira Wallace, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Virginia
Jim Embry, Sustainable Communities Farm, Atrus Ballew Farm, Kentucky
Edmund Frost, Commonwealth Seed Growers, Virginia
Jason Roland, Organically Roland Farm, South Carolina
Angie Lavezzo, Painted Crow Farm, North Carolina
Matthew Raiford, Gilliard Farm, Georgia
Chris Smith, The Utopian Seed Project, North Carolina
Reji Blackwood

Additional Resources

2020 Collard Week - The Heirloom Collard Project

At the end of 2020, in collaboration with the Culinary Breeding Network, The Heirloom Collard Project hosted four days of online collard-focused education and celebration. Below you can immerse yourself in food history, seed stewardship, gardening, farming, cooking and more, and join the conversation as part of the Heirloom Collard Project! 

Thanks to our video series sponsors:

Two Seeds in a Pod logo
Sow True Seed logo

In 2021 The Utopian Seed Project and Communal Studios received a grant from Southern SARE to create a Southeast Seed video series. The project traveled across 12 states and interviewed over 50 farmers, community gardeners, seed savers, seed growers and seed advocates. The footage was weaved together to tell the story and seed saving of six southern crops: corn, okra, southern peas, collards, sweet potatoes and squash.

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2020-38640-31521 through the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program under subaward number LS21-351. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider.