"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Collecting Seeds

Click to enlarge↓

The tiny but immensely intricate flower of the salad burnett plant reminds me of some sort of glorious extraterrestrial life form. Unlike last year when the majority of the plants seed was destroyed in bad weather this year's salad burnett is putting out copious amounts of successors.

I have been making daily rounds throughout the garden collecting the seed from various plants. Rather then waiting until each of the plants are fully loaded with seed I have learned to try and collect as much as possible as it becomes available. One bad weather front could pummel my whole supply into the earth as was the case last July. This is a project I will spend a few minutes every day at until mid September or October when the weather cools. A special section of our porch that remains warm, dry, and shady until fall has been set aside to finish drying the collected seed. It is a task that I find to be very enjoyable and rewarding.

I carefully remove chive seed by gently brushing the tops with my fingers to release any seeds that are ready to be harvested.


Stefaneener said...

I've been thinking about your comments on the seed cages being too involved for folks who aren't in this professionally, and I agree. I was wondering if little muslin bags with drawstrings mightn't serve the purpose. If one could "cage" just the flowers, similar to how we tape squash blossoms, then it would certainly be easier to save seed, at least from perfect flowers.

Mrs. Mac said...

My garden this year has been a great experience. I have learned so much about timing, frost dates, etc. Now, next year I hope to find a good cache of heirloom seeds to begin a even greater journey ... and learn how to save seeds. I checked the web for your 'salad burnet' plant and came across this recipe you might be interested in:
"Onion, Corn and Potato Soup with Salad Burnet Puree" here ... http://www.sallybernstein.com/food/columns/gilbert/salad_burnet.htm

Now you got me thinking about foraging and reading up on what's edible locally in the woods. I did add a handful of our wild thimble berries to a vinaigrette salad dressing tonight ... beautiful color ... everyone enjoyed the salad.

Mr. H. said...


Yes, those bags should work. Last week I got tired of trying to bag my pepper flowers with peices of Cheryl Tiegs Daysheer knee highs (with a reinforced toe).

So I ordered a bunch of muslin bags through Amazon. I hope to recieve any day now - Cotton Drawstring Muslin Bags, 2.75" X 4" - Pack of 50 for $10.75 and a pack of 25, 4" X 6" for $7.95 via Rina's Garden Creations.

Hopefully they will work better than Cheryl's product. I was also reading that you could dip pepper flower heads in "safe" glue to hold them shut, unless it rains. The trick with peppers and other perfect flowers is to give the flowers a tap now and then to help mix or drop the pollen.

I'm hoping I can use the bags for, peppers, eggplants, certain tomatoes, and cucurbits as well. I'll let you know how the bags work out for me...great minds think alike!

Mr. H. said...

Mrs. Mac,

It's only 4 AM and you have already got me thinking about food.:) I have the potatoes for that recipe and as soon as my corn is ready I will have to try it.

A great book on wild edibles that can be found in this area is "Edible Wild Plants" A North American Field Guide, I use it all the time.

el said...

Yes, saving seeds a little at a time will definitely get you ahead of the game. I have someone coming to help out in the gardens this weekend (she's a student of my husband's, keen on learning more about gardening) and I swear one of the only things I have to do now is do some seed processing. I don't know why I avoid it so! It's not like it's hard.

Speaking of seedheads, we tried the seed pods growing on our shot-to-seed-this-year, shouldn't save it daikon radish and they were quite lovely!! Of course I have enough to make a few dinners out of, they were so enthusiastic, but...

And you can add the burnet seeds to my list. Are you keeping track ;0 ?

Leigh said...

Excellent photos!

Mr. H. said...

Hi El,

The only seeds I don't like processing are tomatoes, other than that I enjoy it. I would rather collect seeds over starting them, in flats, anytime though.

It's really nice that you are able to share your knowledge with someone who is interested, that is one of my favorite garden tasks by far.

If I manage to get any podding radish seed, which is unlikely due to their nature, I will send you some, you'll love them if you like the regular pods.

I often wonder if a plant that bolts due to abnormal weather or conditions really puts out an inferior seed. Like last year my chard was severely damaged by hail and most of it started to bolt and had to be replanted...I bet the seed would have been just fine if used this year.

Oh yeah, don't worry about the list. I do tend to be a tad addle minded sometimes so I always write things like that down in a notebook, it makes me appear smarter than I really am. Believe me, I need all the help I can get.:)

Mr. H. said...

Thanks Leigh,

My camera is very low end but I do try. Actually I find it kind of challenging to take a fairly good picture with a fairly bad camera. But hey, it's a huge advance over my drawings.:) I just love that flower, it's so small that it can easily go unnoticed.

Silke said...

Mr. H, I can't believe how much I missed my daily dose of your wonderful blog while we were traveling! Of course, I had to read everything you posted since then...and of course I learned many new things. I had never heard of juneberries, but Daniel had. Or of podding radishes. Both the radishes and the salad burnett flowers look like something from outer space... We haven't collected many seeds yet except from our lima beans. Seed collecting seems as much an art as the rest of the gardening experience.

Mr. H. said...


I'm surprised you have never heard of podding radishes, they are supposed to go good with a beer in Germany. I found a great new German gardening blog and may have to pick your brain about a few of the things I could not understand one of these days.

I'm a little jealous of your trip to Niagra Falls, I have always wanted to see them. I'm so glad you had a great time and kept us all posted.

Silke said...

What? Something that goes with German beer and I haven't heard of it?!? ;) For any questions about the German blog, just e-mail me. I'm happy to help!

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

I was just shaking my head after reading this. NO wonder I collected only small amount of chives seeds because I let the bloom head completely dried and cut it. Only a few seeds left or sometime none. Should have harvest them frequently. Thanks for the tip :).

Mr. H. said...

Malay kadazan Girl - I probabely come by and tap each one of those chive flowers 5 or 6 times over the course of a couple weeks. I learned that the hard way as I experienced the same trouble as you with them...and then we get these winds that really toss the seed all about. Some people cut the flower and stalk off when half of the seeds appear ready and the plants remaining energy will finish off the seeds while everything drys out in, this way you will not lose any seed. I have tried this and it did seem to work.

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