Friday, October 21, 2011

G.E.E.E. is Going to Seed

As the time has come to return seeds to our gloriously depleted Seed Library, we are asking not only Library members to bring back seeds from their bounty crops, but also for the rest of our community to donate seeds from our gardens.

To do so, we have a few recommendations on how to collect and save the seeds from the plants that have fed us all summer.

How to Save Seeds

All across America, American gardeners are growing plants and saving seeds. If you have grown produce this year, you too may want to consider how to save seeds from your plants and vegetables so that you can grow more next year. Even if you did not grow them yourself you may find vegetables on a farm market or even in your local supermarket, and you can save seeds from these too. Learning how to save seeds from your plants will allow you to grow and enjoy a much wider variety of vegetables than if you have to buy the seeds or plants each year and it will be a lot cheaper too!

The first step to saving seeds is to make sure that the seeds are ripe. This is likely to be when a tomato is perhaps past its best for eating and slightly mushy; or the zucchini is past the small tender stage. This is clearly much easier to do if you are growing and monitoring the produce in your garden, than it is when you are relying on the supermarket to sell over ripe vegetables. If you do buy the vegetables, particularly peppers and tomatoes, let them come to full ripeness on the counter rather than store in the refrigerator, where the maturing of the fruits is delayed by low temperatures.

The next step is to identify and extract the seed. For peas and beans this is obvious, and it is easy to take the seeds out of the shells. Dry these seeds and store them until next spring. For tomatoes and other messy seeds that are in a gelatinous coating, rinse the seeds thoroughly in a sieve and rub the seeds gently to remove the gel. Dry the seeds on a paper towel before storing. For very tiny seeds such as with lettuce, let the plant go to seed and pick the seed head. Cover the whole thing with a brown sandwich bag, or plastic bag, and shake the seeds out. Sort out any chaff or debris that is among the seeds before storing them.

These simple steps will ensure that the plants you grew this year can be grown again next year. By learning how to save seeds, you will also be able to share the seeds with neighbors and other vegetable lovers, so that more can be grown again in North American Gardens next year. Saving seeds also promotes the variety of vegetables that you eat and helps to preserve some of the strains of plants that were in danger of being lost forever.

Saving Seeds For Tomatoes in Particular

Fermenting Tomato Seeds

1. Choose a heathly tomato from a healthy plant – While you’d rather save the best-looking tomatoes for eating, sick fruit from sick plants pass on… well, sickness. And remember, you can always scoop out the seeds for saving and eat the rest.

2. Scoop the insides out of your tomato (seeds and all) into a plastic yoghurt container. A lid isn’t critical but it helps with the smell.

3. Label your container with the variety name and set it somwhere warm but out of direct sun. You can prop the lid on but don’t seal it shut. Remember you’re fermenting here so this is going to stink. Find an out-of-the-way spot if you can.

    It’s READY!

4. Stir your container once or twice a day until a “nice” layer of white mold forms on top. This usually takes a few days. Don’t leave the fermented goo sitting for too long after this stage or your seeds will start to germinate in the container.

5. Your seeds are now ready to harvest. Thankfully you do not have to dig around in this mess in order to fish them out. All of the good seeds will have sunk to the bottom with all the useless stuff left floating in the mold. Separating the good from the bad is as easy as scooping or pouring off the moldy layer from the liquid. Remove as much as you can without losing any of the good seeds.

6. Fill the container with water, stir, and repeat step five. Repeat refilling with water and scooping until all the bad debris has been removed.

7. Rinse off the remaining seeds in a strainer and spread them out onto a pad of newspaper.

8. Set the seeds out to dry for a few days. Don’t forget to label them if you’ve got more than one variety on the go. Take it from me. I always think I’ll remember what I’ve got but I NEVER do.

9. Package your dried seeds, label, and store for next year. seeds/

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