Saving Seeds, Like a Ninja

I’ve been a little pissy this week. I am getting so frustrated waiting for my vegetables to grow! I feel like it’s never going to happen. So many hours, busted knuckles, sore knees and torn fingernails and nothing to show for it. Boo-hoo, poor me. My cyber-pal Angie says to bring whatever we’ve got going to her Fiesta Friday #15 blog party, and apparently I’m showing up with a case of whine. Hopefully there’s enough handy info to make up for my bad attitude. Maybe you nice folks can serenade me with teeny tiny violins while I bitch and moan?

Nah, enough with the pity party. Fact is, food takes time to grow, especially when you start from seed, so I am sucking it up and entertaining myself collecting seeds for next season.

Collecting Black Seeded Simpson lettuce seeds
Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce Seeds

I am new to seed-collecting, having never put two and two together and realized that seeds make flowers… and food. Duh. It’s like, I knew, I just didn’t really know. Jon on the other hand was always saving seeds from organic vegetables we got at the store and sticking them in the ground. And sometimes they grew! They also sprout from our compost pile and occasionally in spots in the yard we know are popular raccoon restrooms.

Last year's Red Garnet Amaranth
Collecting seed from last year’s Red Garnet Amaranth

So it took a while but I’m finally starting to get it. The gorgeous red amaranth above was one of my first big ‘aha’ moments. Look at that – I’m shaking this thing and seeds are coming out! I now spend hours reading about seeds – finding, harvesting, storing, germinating, etc. It’s a pretty fun way to keep the garden bursting with color and food and save a few bucks in the process. Also, by saving my own food seeds I know I’m getting open-pollinated heirlooms, which are Monsanto-pesticide-GMO-free. And while seeds from the occasional hybrid won’t necessarily grow true, it’s kind of a fun experiment to save them and see what you get.

Opium Poppies and their seed pods before harvest time
Opium Poppies and their seed pods before harvest time

Not only that, a lot of seed pods are really cool! Some are so beautiful I’m not even sad when the flower dies. Check out these Poppies (Papaver Somniferum) above. The flower is gorgeous, but it only blooms for a day or two and then this crazy seed pod forms. Bonus! The key with collecting poppy seeds is to let the pod dry on the plant but grab them before they split open and pour out their seeds. This can happen very quickly so you must be on your toes! See? Gardening is exciting!

The ones pictured are still green and getting plumper but within a week (probably all of a sudden and while I’m sleeping) they’ll turn brown, little tiny holes will open at the top, the stem will bend over, and a zillion poppy seeds will pour out. It’s great if you want them to reseed, but if you want to collect any seeds you’ve got to keep an eye on them. When they’re nearly ready to pop you must spring on them, leaping from the shadows and pouncing with your weapon of choice (I recommend garden shears), and stuffing them into a paper bag. Like a poppy ninja.

California Poppies with their seed pods
California Poppies with their seed pods

California Poppies are a little different – their pod is long and narrow, like string beans. I haven’t grown these before so I’m waiting to see what happens… also like a ninja. Waiting. Watching. Ready to pounce.

Onions in bloom
Onions in bloom

Now this is what happens when you leave an onion in the ground through two growing seasons. Actually in this case, I grew these tiny red onions two years ago and they were such a pain to peel we never ate them. Last fall when they started sprouting in the pantry I stuck them in the ground and people kept asking me what would happen (or did I keep asking people?). I had no idea. I’m still not totally sure if I’ll get a bulb after the greens die, but who cares because these flowers are nuts! The bloom is a gorgeous puffball made of hundreds of tiny white flowers. Bees go absolutely gaga for these things! So do I, obviously.

Onion blossoms with onion seeds
Onion blossoms with onion seeds

These have not proven to be the easiest to harvest, but apparently if I let them dry completely it’s much easier. I’m trying to be patient. Tap tap tap. That’s my foot. Through gardening I am finding, surprisingly to me, that I’m not a very patient person. I don’t know if that was clear.

Silver Queen Corn grown from old seeds improperly stored
Silver Queen Corn grown from old seeds improperly stored

Another important lesson I’m learning is that seeds don’t last forever and they need to be stored right, in a cool, dark place. Onions seeds, for instance, should be used the first year. And see the corn pictured above? I planted it at least two months ago. It should be several feet tall by now. Those seeds were 3-4 years old and had been stored at room temperature. The corn below, on the other hand, was planted a month later from newly harvested, properly stored seeds. As you can see, it is thriving! Every seed germinated, leaving me with two healthy plants in each spot. I have some thinning out to do.

This corn will be so cool. It’s an heirloom called “Glass Gem” only recently brought back into circulation. The kernels are all different colors and you never know what you’ll get. It’s also technically a popcorn, but that remains to be seen.

Glass Gem Corn - Heirloom grown from seed harvested in San Diego 2013
Glass Gem Corn – Heirloom grown from seed harvested in San Diego 2013

Now if you don’t mind bringing the conversation back to raccoon poop for a minute, it turns out that many seeds require fermentation before saving. Tomatoes and passionflowers are a couple popular ones. It’s a pretty simple process of soaking the seeds in water for a few days and allowing the non-viable ones to float to the top. Scoop those out, soak again, then rinse, dry and store. Alternatively, you could feed them to a raccoon and follow him around with a baggie, but I can’t promise that will turn out well for you.

This season, my first time starting seeds indoors, I had good germination on all my tomato seeds except the pineapple tomatoes I received in a trade. I planted eight seeds and only one germinated. It grew into a weak, spindly plant that I finally pulled up and tossed in the compost, which is really hard for me. I hate killing plants (wish me luck thinning my corn). I don’t have a photo, it was too depressing. My guess is that those seeds were dried but not fermented.

Heirloom Beefsteak Tomatoes
Heirloom Beefsteak Tomatoes

On a more positive note, these are heirloom beefsteaks I got from Mozybeau Farms. THIS is what a healthy tomato plant looks like! I can’t wait to  bite into these suckers in, like, two months. Which takes me to my next post, tentatively entitled “What the hell is taking so long?!?” Did I mention I’m not a patient person?

~~~ On a side note, while I was writing this silly post a family of Phoebes, mom and two babies I think, flew into my front yard! So freaking cute. Okay, I’m happy again. Like a ninja, because, why not.

Phoebe baby bird
P1040417

 

~~~~~~~~~~ END POST ~~~~~~~~~~~

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33 Comments Add yours

  1. Nancy says:

    Beautiful garden! You’ve peeked my curiosity…can I be successful in collecting my own seeds, too? I guess I’ll never know if I don’t try! We are still a few weeks away from the safe planting season here, so you’ve allowed me some time to research the possibilities. Sounds like such fun. 🙂

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thank you! I took some really pretty pics today I hope to post soon. And I know for sure that you can collect seeds. Be careful, though, it’s totally addictive. I have developed a habit of skulking around the neighborhood with baggies, scissors and a pen deadheading everyone’s plants! And then you can join a seed-swapping group and really go crazy 🙂

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      1. Nancy says:

        Lol, another addictive hobby…just what I need!

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          I know, right?

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  2. The colors on the top picture and all of the photographs were so good – I loved reading this!

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thank you so much! I love spring in the garden. So many gorgeous colors and textures 🙂

      Like

  3. Your garden looks beautiful, Sheri! Really nice post!

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thank you! I’m just sitting here drooling over your cheesy lasagna LOL. It’s huge on my screen… looks so good!

      Like

      1. Thanks! Have a nice weekend!

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  4. Hi Sherri! I am co-hosting FF15 with Jhuls this week and wanted to say hello and thank you for such an interesting and timely post! Seeds are a bit like cooking with yeast – they seem so daunting until you start using them! Those onion flowers are absolutely beautiful – you have such a gorgeous garden, thank you so much for sharing with us. I hope you get a chance to check out the other revellers and meet some new friends! Enjoy the fiesta!

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thanks for the welcome! I’m loving FF’s – so many fun people and so much gorgeous food. Glad I’ve got something pretty to bring to the parties. My food isn’t always picture worthy, Lol. I look forward to visiting your blog and getting to know you better 🙂

      Like

  5. Jhuls says:

    Sheri! I am so envious of your garden – it’s so beautiful. They are rainbows to my eyes! ❤ I tried planting before but it was not successful. After a few years, I bought flowers in pots and tried making them grow, but they died after a few weeks. Then, I did not try again. I admire people who can grow such beautiful creations. For me, it's really an art and passion!

    Thanks for sharing these lovely photos, Sheri! Have a pleasant FF15 and weekend! ❤

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thank you Jhuls! I assure you, I have little to do with the success of the flowers. We planted lots of drought-tolerant, little-care varieties. I can personally kill a houseplant in a week no problem. Veggies though I’m getting pretty good at! Keep an eye out, if all goes well I’ll be sharing lots of pretty harvest pics soon 🙂

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      1. Jhuls says:

        We look forward to seeing those photos, Sheri! 🙂 I hope you had a lovely weekend and enjoy the week. ❤

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          Thanks Jhuls, you too! 🙂

          Like

  6. Hilda says:

    As a bit of a seedaholic myself, I understand your enthusiasm. Too bad we can’t trade some.

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Oh Hilda, we can totally trade! Canada, right? If you’re interested I’m willing. I have a zillion heirloom veggie seeds and lots of flowers to share. Also if you’re on facebook you should join The Great American Seed Swap. I’m trading with someone in Ontario as we speak – sunflowers for carrots. Totally unnecessary, but fun 🙂 There are lots of Canadians in the group and lots of foragers too!

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      1. Me, too, I wanna trade, too!

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          Let’s do it Angie! Seed swaps are fun! You and I can trade anytime, or maybe I can organize one with the FF crowd 🙂

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          1. Unfortunately, I don’t think the FF crowd is into gardening much. Maybe a few, but they’re mostly foodies. I keep asking for non-food posts, but they’re few and far in between. I have some moringa seeds, if you’re interested, but they’re 2 years old.

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            1. Sheri Fox says:

              Yeah you’ve got a lot of cookers at the party! Maybe June’s challenge should be to blog anything BUT cooking 😉 I’d love moringa seeds. Can you email me at sheri at scraphound.net?

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  7. The onion flowers are amazing!

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Really cool, aren’t they?

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      1. They look a lot like “ornemental garlic” flowers… same botanical family 🙂

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          Yes, exactly! I think these are much bigger though, Society Garlic on steroids 😉

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  8. Ngan R. says:

    Your garden looks like it is well on its way and is quite a feast for my eyes. I would love to grow my own vegetables, but sadly, I don’t have a yard for that. I’m really impressed with those onion bulbs and beeftsteak tomatoes!

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thank you! I absolutely love gardening, especially at harvest time. Ya know, there are lots of growing options for small spaces. If you ever wanted to squeeze some in, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, herbs, onions, beets all do well in containers. Just a thought 😉

      Like

  9. I get your impatience 😉

    Very interesting info on saving seeds – so far I have grown fennel and broad beans from my own seeds. Will hopefully do more as I become more proficient at gardening….

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      I’m sure you will. It’s really exciting to see what you can collect from your own garden… and your neighbor’s. I remember when my first lettuce bolted, then flowered, then made seeds! It was like magic lol. Glad you’re enjoying your allotment – lots of work but worth it!

      Like

  10. Liz says:

    What an addictive hobby but you seem to love growing seeds and seeing the results. I love the colour of that Amaranth, it looks so pretty. I love your garden and everything in it. Have a great weekend!

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thanks Liz! Yes that amaranth was incredible. Who knew “pigweed” would be so pretty? Enjoy your Sunday, see ya next week!

      Like

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