February 27, 2024

Ultracross Collards

by Tessa Desmond in Projects

Selection of collards presented at a tasting in North Carolina.  Photo by Tessa Lowinske Desmond.

Ultracross Collards Community Seed Selection Project

Faculty Lead: Tessa Lowinske Desmond

Collaborating Partners: Heirloom Collard Project, Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance, The Utopian Seed Project

Ultracross Collards were born in 2020 when a network of public plant breeders and small seed companies grew a composite collection of some 21 varieties of collard greens next to each other in an effort to cross them.  Part of an effort by the Heirloom Collards Project to work towards the “recognition and respect of collards as a key component of American food culture,” the ulracross collards collection uses heirlooms of the past to breed heirlooms of the future.  In the process of growing the ultracross collard collection, gardeners are invited to take notice of the rich diversity in the crop with leaves ranging in color from green to blue and even into purples and pinks, textures including frilly and smooth, glazed and matte, and growing habits from heading to open.   

The Seed Farm joined in the Ultracross Collards Community Seed Selection Project in 2022 as a network partner committed to growing the ultracross collards population for five years and making local selections based on environmental factors, pest resilience, taste, and appearance.  After five years of selection, participating farms will be asked to share back their locally-selected  and adapted variety with the Heirloom Collards Project to be grown altogether to showcase new and evolving collards varieties.

In addition to growing the collards, this is one of the few crops at the farm that we also get to eat.  In the fall of 2022, Campus Dining hosted a collards cooking class in Butler College where students and faculty learned to cook collards from The Seed Farm.  The collards that we cooked were served in the dining hall that evening.  

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