Richard mix, grex experiments - Brassica / Broccoli

These are my starting seeds.

I got three types of broccoli, violet de sicilie, green calabrese natalino, cezar. One purple and two greens. One of the greens broccoli got the shots very different from the other one.
I got two kohlrabi, purple and green one. One Brussels sprouts, some seeds from a cabbage, and a green kale nero di toscana.

These are the plants from spring 2023. There are a lot scattered all over the garden

Some of the broccoli already gone to seed. I think I am a bit late to get the seeds, some of them already shred the pods, It looks like a bird or a snail ate the pods, it is normal? When I checked the seeds looked immature and soft but nature did not think the same.

These are the newer plants from autumm 2023

These are the new plants for “feel like spring” winter 2024


I have noticed that the brassica plants once established are very robust, they have been without water a long time and the plants have not dry up. It happened the same with the seedlings, they did not dry up on me, even without water for more than a week.

So I am looking forward to them this year too. One thing that I want to increment is the number of broccoli heads, in terms of more plants, or creating a broccolish variety that make a lot of side shouts or florets to eat while the plant is still growing, like getting leaves from the kale.


Thanks for sharing @Richard! Exciting stuff. Love the look of the purple one and the big green flowering one!!

I noticed that this year with some of my brassicas - - damage patterns that were too early and particular to be from shattering or leaving the pods too long. Domestic brassicas are still a relatively new crop on the land we steward. Last year might have been the second year we had them seeding, so having pods available to wildlife is still a pretty new thing. The first year growing domestic brassicas our kale grew beautifully until the leaves were completely devoured by pests. Without any change to our pest management strategy (do nothing but encourage biodiversity), the second year was drastically improved. I mention it in case having domestic brassicas seed in or near your growing area is a relatively new thing. I’m guessing other folks with more experience growing them will have more informative thoughts.

Best of luck!

Birds (finches and sparrows) start snacking on mine when the pods just start to change color.

It looks like a bird or a snail ate the pods, it is normal?

Different insects are probably ones that are snacking on your pods. It’s usual in my garden, but with diversity of plants and other animal I still have a lot of seeds left for me

Not including my napus grex? :smiling_face_with_tear:

Yes, I made some transpants with your napus. I also missing on the list for this year, a red kale, two brassica rapa, three cabbage, one of them colorfull. But I do not have much seeds for them.

And all the mustard. But I was posting oleracea first.

Can napus cross with oleracera or rapa?

I did get seeds from hand-pollination, where oleracea was everything I could find: my own 2 frilly kales (Jagallo Nero and Fizz), others’ broccoli and whatever else they grew near me). I emasculated. I may also have crossed with mizuna, I don’t remember…

The reverse cross set a lot, lot less seed. From the same number of attempted crosses:

Where I pollinated roughly the same total number of flowers across all napus and all oleracea I had, but I had a lot more napus plants which might skew the results. Some plants might have been particularly receptive, that is! And/or my oleaceas particularly kinky. By no means statistical data.

I haven’t grown them yet!

As to without human interaction, I don’t know if they can or want to. I’d guess if you interplant tightly, perhaps!


If I remember correctly, Shane did an extensive research about brassicaceae on his substack, with a great schema of intermediate species (like br. Carinata) created by crossing the 3 main branches: napus, oleracea, and rapa. Am I correct @ShaneS ?


Interplanting like one of each. I suppose having luck with flowering times too?

My broccoli flowers are full of bumble bee now. Is still necessary to do manual pollination?

No, no, they will be fine. I specifically wanted to cross some by hand to see what I get. I have another cross in mind but it refused to flower last year no matter how I tried to shock it into bolting. I want to create a kalette (oleracea) x napus (Bare Necessities population) cross. Like little “Brussels sprouts” that 1) are “open” like kalette and 2) that are frilly.

this is kalette (pix from the web, not my own):


I want those things to be even more frilly!
I now tried to overwinter some kalette stems and I think 2 might have survived!


Looks nice.

Oh :crossed_fingers:

I was thinking if I interplant them oleracea/rapa/napus, they prefer to cross with themselves, so crosses will be rarer or I will find a lot of crosses.

I just harvested all the pots that I found. All of them were from broccoli, and maybe 10% were from the purple ones.

There were a lot of opened pods, like > 60% of them. There are still a lot of flowers, so I propably will get more pods.

The bigger pods are from broccolli that I planted in late autumn. These ones.

I made more photos. There are dry weeds over the soil, I did not put it there. Looks a lot like a mulch, a natural one.


Best practice with brassica seeds is as soon as the siliques (seed pods) begin to change color to cut or pull the entire plant and place it in a shady, dry, cool, protected location, preferably hanging, with a tarp underneath. You can check on their progress before pulling the plant, by splitting a silique with your thumbnail and inspecting the seeds inside. If the seeds look mature or close to mature, pull or cut the plant. Once the seeds are mature, the siliques rapidly shatter to release the seeds, especially if the weather is dry. A pulled plant that is entire will continue to mature seeds for a few days, then as it dries the siliques will shatter to release seeds. That’s why you want a tarp underneath. Then you can thresh the rest of the siliques. I find that a wheelbarrow covered with 1/4 inch hardware cloth screen works well for threshing on. Whacking it with a straw broom will dislodge the seeds.

The chaff makes nice mulch. It will probably contain some seeds though, so there will be volunteers in it. I don’t mind that but some people might.

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The way I feel about this, meaning, I don’t actually know, just feelings, or my opinion :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes::see_no_evil:

— thay would prob cross with the “likeminded” first
— you are unlikely to sow a sample size from all your kale seeds that would represent the crossed ones reasonably well. I got half a liter of kale seeds across 8 plants. What percentage of that can potentially be crossed and what percentage do I sow year after year? If I get 5% natural interspecific outcrossing (and I def think I overestimate that) and I sow 20 seeds, what did I capture? Maybe one if I am lucky.

(Now of course if that number is 50% then why not…)

So that is why I emasculate and hand-cross of I really want crossing to happen and I want to capture that as well in the growout.

We call it, “sacarlo de la manga” / “take it out of the sleeve” :man_mage:. We can call it intuition. Can be right or wrong, but it gives a lot of inside information.

Really? I think I collected seed pots from 25+ Broccolli plants, I collected a big bag but I do not think I will reach those numbers. There were some plants with opened pods, small pods, big pods and flowering at the same time. It was all over the place. Fine for me.

It sounds like a challenge. I think I can sow all the seeds that I collected, with direct sowing. I still want to save some of them for next year or for backups. But most of them will go to the soil.

The other day I bought a manual seeder like the one below.

And just for testing I sow 64g+ of brassica rapa in these 4 lines on the right of 35+meters. Usually the problem is not sowing, is watering all that space. Maybe some drip lines, or just sprinkles. Other think that probably I need to do is reseed. I think I will get some patches of no plants. Another alternative is sowing in the line that separate the trenches. So I will need double that amount of seeds in that space.

I also tested with melons seeds and 80g disappeared very quickly.

Yes, with transplants is very difficult to use a lot of seed when the seeds are small, but If I put them directly on the soil with that machine…

The other think I realize with my lettuce, that maybe 20% of the volunteer plants were crosses on 10+ plants without watering. In that instance It was easy to distinguish because I only sow two varieties, red and green, and the crosses exhibited mix of colors and were easy to identify.

So I imagine if I sow green kale, and red kale and I do the same with those seeds and direct sow them I will get a lot of recognizable crosses. If I get the same proportion as the lettuce 20% is a lot. Easy to recognize and save seeds from them.

For example let’s say now I want to do the same with rapa, oleracea, napus or any brassica that can cross with it. I guess the crosses between rapa, oleracea or napus are rarer? But the crosses should be stronger right? So with direct sowing I will see more proportion of the crosses appear in my context? Or just I have to be lucky and find those crosses?

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I found in the same space that there were branches with opened pods, other branches with small pods, and other branches with flowers. I do not know if that happen in the same plant, I will check another day. But here is an example with flowering and opened pods.

I was checking for the pods to get bigger and when I checked again they were a lot of them opened.

Prior to find the pods opened I checked the pods and they were very unripen and not mature at all, they were soft.

So probably I need to check more regularly and to check all the branches.

I will try your method to thresh the seeds when they get dried.

I do not mind either, I prefer this types of volunteer instead of spiky weeds.

These are the seeds now. I have noticed that some seeds sprout faster than the others. For most of the varieties I put two seeds in each cell.

I have not read all info about this but generally the instructions for seed saving are like for just about anything else: grow one oleracea, one napus etc and then they won’t cross, or unlikely. Here’s a quick preview:

You can dig into this, I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff online, I just don’t care to do that detective work right now, but again no I do not think that you get natural interspecific crosses with such a frequency that you could capture many of them without sowing a large number of seeds. It is one thing that two plants can cross, as in, there’s no explicit barriers pre-or post fertilization. It’s another if they naturally do.

Here’s a commonly cited reference image

Further, I once looked into how radishes come into or near the Brassica complex, long story why and saved this image for my reference:



2002_9.Review-_Brassica_cross-pollination.pdf|attachment (1.9 MB)