broadbeanseeds

With the excitement of the harvest that continues triumphantly during October it’s also time to remember that this is also the abundant harvest time for seeds too.

Saving seed from the veg and flowers grown this year is the optimum way to enrich your garden going forward, save money (seeds can be so expensive) and also an important way to contribute to preserving heritage and genetic diversity.

Today worldwide we rely predominantly on a few global seed companies for the seed we grow.  Whilst there is a place for this particularly to meet the needs of farming what it also means is that many of the seeds we have access to are genetically very similar to each other some of which (F1 labelled) are unable to be harvested for reproduction.  These seeds are perfect for farming and large scale commercial use.  The challenge for the gardener is that these seeds produce uniform plants that are designed to produce an optimum harvest with produce ripening all at the same time and a predictable size.  In the garden what you ideally want is a harvest over a succession of weeks that is manageable rather than a glut of a particular crop.  Saved seed and heritage seeds maybe more likely to deliver less abundance but in return they offer greater depth of flavour and are more suited to your particular local conditions.

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Heritage seed. Organic crimson flowered broad beans dried out on the plant and ready for harvesting and saving.

The benefits of seed saving are many as it contributes to community, food diversity, wildlife and food security.  It presents the option of growing food in your garden and allotment that suits your diet.  Seeds that you have collected from your runner bean plant that did particularly well in your cool, windswept, exposed garden means that you are likely to produce stronger plants best suited for your conditions year after year.

For the Afro-Caribbean gardener saving seeds from your Caribbean vegetables supports the preserving of ancient crops grown over hundreds of years by ancestors and the indigenous people of the Caribbean some of whom are now no longer.  Saving the seed from your callaloo, pumpkin, kale, corn is handing down the dietary tradition, medicinal knowledge and gardening skills to the next generation.  In the UK this becomes all the more important as the figures for gardeners of Afro-Caribbean descendants diminishes with the passing on of the generation who originally came from the islands.  Growing and saving these seeds maintains the traditions and culture, offers access to fresh good which is otherwise unavailable or only available in a canned form shipped thousands of miles over many weeks before it reaches our plates.

Callaloo (Amaranthus spinosa) seed heads collected for drying.

Callaloo (Amaranthus spinosa) seed heads collected for drying.

How To Save Seed

Dry Seeds:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Rocket
  • Okra
  • Brassicas
  • Nasturtium
  • Lettuce
  • Sweetcorn

Dry seeds are easy to collect and it’s easy to tell when seeds are ready to be harvested.  The plants seedheads or pods will swell and then turn brown as they dry out.  This is the optimum time to collect your seeds.

Snip the seedhead off with about 20cm of the stem.  Place them in a paper bag, turn upside-down and tie the end and then hang them somewhere dry, cool, well-ventilated place to dry out fully.  The seeds will drop into the paper bag over the next few weeks.  You can then discard the stems.  Store the seeds in an envelope, label and then store them in a seed box somewhere cool and dark.

It’s important to use only a paper bag and paper-based storage as any form of plastic is likely to make the seeds sweat which will result in mould or encourage premature germination and render the seeds useless.

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Washed pumpkin seeds drying for storage

Wet Seeds:

  • Tomatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Cucumber
  • Chilli

These seeds are contained within the fruit of the vegetable.  It’s important to harvest seeds from fully grown, ripe plants, to ensure the seed has reached maturity.

With these seeds you can typically scoop the seeds out of the fruit.  Place them into a sieve and completely rinse away the pulp to leave the seeds only.  Wet seeds will stick to things like paper, so place them on a plate in a dry place and leave them for 2-3 days to dry out completely.  Move them about and turn them over to make sure that they don’t rot on the underside.

 

Enjoy the harvest!

 

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