Monday, January 5, 2015

New year, edible flowers and saving seeds

Hi all and happy new year!

As we're reaching the peak of summer (strange how it gets hotter and more 'summery' after the longest day and summer solstice, the 21st of December)

The height of summer means two things in terms of crops: peak productivity or flowering/seeding.
Flowering Pak Choi

Many summer-season crops: beans, zucchini's, seasonally planted kale and collards are at their productive peak.any of you may be benefiting from such harvests, or pulling your hair about a glut (why do all the tomatoes seem to come at once?) of veggies, a phenomenon that has spawned the cute, National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbor's Porch Day in the USA. 

The other side is some earlier crops, and herbs flowing and going to seed. This means: 1. Edible flowers (try rocket, parsley, borage or coriander flowers in salads!) and 2. Seed saving.

In an era where we are seeing the monopolisation of the worlds seeds by big scary multinational corporations like Monsanto, seed saving is more important than ever. Or, if you are not so politically inclined, seed saving offers a-few-dollars-saved on buying new seeds from the shop next year.

Points on seed saving:
  • Save seed from the best plants and eat the rest.
  • Save seed from non-hybrid plants (commonly referred to as heritage, old-fashioned or open pollinated plants.) They are the plants most likely to produce offspring that are like their parents.
  • Seed collection should take place when the plant is mature and the seeds have had time to properly form. When the seeds form either in a pod like a bean, or on a stalk as with silverbeet, then it is best to let them dry on the plant for as long as is practical. 
  • When collecting the seeds from fruiting plants it is best to collect from really ripe fruit. In some cases, such as with cucumbers and melons, the fruit is left until it is almost rotting on the vine. 
  • Some fruit, like tomatoes can be removed semi-ripe then left to ripen fully off the plant.
  • Most seed, such as that from lettuce or kale are dry. Simply remove them from their capsules/pods and store them somewhere cool and dry.
  • When it comes to fleshy seed, such as tomatoes, there are two ways of saving seed:
  1. Soak the pulp in water overnight to allow it to ferment. This removes the natural germination inhibitors. After washing and straining through a sieve, the seed can be dried (on a window sill on paper or in an old jar lid) and stored.
  2. Slice the veggie, ie. tomato, squeeze the pulp directly onto paper towelling and let it dry before storing. When it's time to sow the seed, just cut off a piece of towelling/paper with four to six seeds on it and sow them.
  • Store dried seeds in screw top jars or paper bags/envelopes. Make sure they are dry or you risk mould developing.
Source: diggers.com.au, ABC Gardening Australia

Coriander gone to seed