Monday, October 8, 2012
Do you ever harvest seeds from your garden? Aside from harvesting and eating the actual vegetables, harvesting and saving seeds from your mature plants is one of the very best things about gardening. Today I harvested the leek seeds - this took a while since leeks are biennials, meaning that they take 2 years to flower and produce seeds. Luckily, these were planted in a part of my dad's garden that has been neglected for, yes, two years, so the seeds were left to mature unharmed. Above you can see the dried up leek flowers (it was all I could do to not pick them when they were huge fluffy purple balls of beauty. But I held strong, waiting for the seeds to form.).
Here you can see that each flower is made up of tons of buds, each of which produced one tiny black leek seed. When the buds crack open and you can see the seed inside you are ready to harvest.
I still haven't gotten all the seeds out - I think I'm just going to rub the flowers between my hands and sort out the seeds after everything is all crumbled up. Now I have to decide if I want to do the messy job in the house and deal with the dusting and sweeping, or outside and deal with the scavenging chickens and wind. Hm.
These are rutabega seeds that I gathered from the same neglected section of garden. I'm actually not even sure what to do with a rutabega, but now I can figure that out after these seeds grow into a nice crop next year. Rutabega seeds are a lot easier to harvest - they just come off clean in your hand when you gently squeeze the dried up flower.
Have I inspired you to harvest your own seeds yet? Well if I have, there is just one more thing to know. You can only harvest and reuse the seeds from open-pollinated plants. Many seed companies sell you seeds that have been genetically tampered with so that plants grown from their harvested seeds are inferior and not able to produce vegetables. Sometimes they won't even grow at all. Why would a seed company do that? So that you will have to buy more seeds, of course! Here is a brief article that will tell you a little bit more about open-pollinated seeds. Because people have been getting more and more interested in growing heirloom, open-pollinated crops, there are more and more places to get these seeds. My very favorite is Baker Creek; they have an amazing selection of seeds for your traditional garden vegetables as well and tons of rare things you could never eat unless you grew it yourself. Plus they always seem to send me free seeds with my orders. AND their catalogue is as beautiful as a coffee table book. Did I mention I love them? (And, no they didn't bribe me to say all those great things about them either.)
I'm especially proud of my kale seeds. I grew them all by myself (rather than foraging them from my dad's neglected garden!) and it took great self-control not to pull those plants out of the ground before the seeds were mature. I have pretty limited gardening space and there were many times that I wanted to pluck them out and stick in seeds for something different. Now I have a ton of pretty little kale seeds that I can plant in the spring next year - enough to share with my friends even. It is such a great feeling! It's funny how something so simple and, well, old-fashioned, could make someone feel so good. It's right up there with making a batch of jam. :)