Sunday, October 09, 2011

Saving seeds looks a lot like forgetting to do the dishes

Yeah. That's not appetizing.

The process of saving seeds, particularly those that benefit from fermentation first (tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, tomatillos, generally any fruit with a gel around their seed), is just a bit nast.

I mean, firstly, you let that shit sit on the plant for evAR until it's all bulbousy (that's right, I'm bringing this Finny Original back) and sickly colored and attracting birds to peck at its grody soft spots.

FYI: *NOT* a lemon cucumber. Yeah. Wrong.
Then you bring it and its goopy ripeness into your house even though you pass the composter and it gives you a confused look, like, "Hey, isn't that for me?" and scoop out its grody innards while obviously calling Bubba in to check out the delicious lunch I'm making!

He was not amused. Or appetized.
And then you pour all the seeds and their gloppy grossness into jars and stir them around with tepid water until the seeds start to separate a little from the fruit and resemble vomit.

Not too bad...

Sun Gold, tomatillo and Solly Beiler cucumber vomit, respectively.
Then, while you're setting the jarred tomato, tomatillo and cucumber barf on the bar to ferment in front of your horrified neighbors' faces, you begin to noodle on how you better learn how to harden off seedling starts because all of this vomit-making shouldn't go to waste.

And then you think about you know it's way easier when the seeds start themselves as volunteers in the garden and you don't have to go through the vomit making process in the first place if only they'd just grow where you told them to grow jerks.

Which is when you decide to try another experiment because one's not enough when it comes to trying on a new hobby.

Just go with me on this, seeds.
See, I figured that I'd see about growing some identifiable, self-hardening off, don't need to be shuffled in and out of my house by yours truly pseudo-volunteers who also wouldn't crop up in the middle of next year's tomato hedge and hide from me until WHAT THE HELL IS THAT oh it's last year's tomatillo.

Not that that's ever happened.

And I'd just do it by planting the old fruits in the same soil in small pots and then planting that most of the way into the garden to get them to do what they do naturally except with the super fun benefit of me not having to grow barf in jars on my countertop.

And - hey - I wouldn't have to go through the soul-crushing process of destroying their tender shoots in the spring time trying to get them hardened off in the garden.

Nigh-night old fruits.

So, the seed saving experiment is now two-fold.

1. We save seeds the normal way and then try starting them directly sown into the garden because I suck at hardening them off.
2. We save seeds the abnormal way by just letting them *think* they're volunteers and leave them in the garden in safe little pots to start themselves and then WOO I move them wherever I want them to be in the spring garden as fully formed not-crushed seedlings TAH DAH.

We'll see.

For now, if you're trying the normal way of seed saving (which, probably a good plan given my not-knowing-dick-ness about the abnormal way), and you want to save some of these wet seeds, as they're called (nasty), here's your process:

1. Let the fruit ripen forevAR on the plant - until it's way past its prime.
2. Pick it, scoop out its innards into a jar with a few inches of tepid water and stir it up.
3. Let it sit around until it grows a very not-good looking layer of white mold and/or delightfully grotesque bubbles. (This is so that the germination-inhibiting protective gel will be removed before planting.)

4. Spoon the floaters off the top (these are the bummer seeds that won't germinate) along with the mold and other garbage and pour the seeds that settled on the bottom (winners!) into a fine sieve.

5. Rinse the seeds in the sieve until they're all clean and not gross and then lay them out on a paper towel or plate to dry for a few days.

6. When they're nice and dry (larger seeds, like cucumbers, should snap in half when you bend them), tuck them into a jar, tin, paper envelope or whathaveyou and set them in a cool, dry, dark-type place until spring.

Bonus: If you use a jar, like I have, you want to make sure that condensation and moisture don't develop and mold your seeds because that would completely fuck them up, so, if you insist on doing this because you have these super cute jars that are super extra perfect for this project and otherwise would be sitting around just begging to be used in a similarly perfect cute way, leave them somewhere that will let you keep an eye on them.

I have them on my craft bookshelf in the office so that every time I pass it to go lay down a beating on the printer or get some yarn to knit a thing, I will be able to check the seeds' status and crack the jar if anything suspect is going on.

Because putting them in paper envelopes is less cute. I know. I realize I'm ridiculous. Just go with me on this, people.

Then we just wait until spring and watch to see if any of the experimental pseudo-volunteers grow into viable seedlings and whether any of these seeds will direct sow into something viable.

And in case there's all around disaster, we also sit down with the Baker Creek catalog sometime in December and order up reinforcements.

Yay for seed saving.


  1. Yes, yes the growing of moldy scum is gross. I agree. Smells, too. Also, I have mine drying on a piece of cardboard (I thought maybe they wouldn't stick as much as with paper towels) and the cardboard is on the top shelf of the open cabinet above the heater in the kitchen. But I forgot to tell the MiL it was up there, and the other day she was all, "What is this?" reaching for my seeds, and I was all, "NOOOOO, DON'T TOUCH THAT,", terrified that she would tilt the cardboard and all my tiny seeds would go flying, never to be seen again.

    She did tilt it, but they were stuck fast to the cardboard, so my shouting was for naught.

    I'm way fun to live with.

    P.S. I am intrigued with your "volunteer" experiment. You're a real thinker, Finn.

  2. Um, have you seen that show, Hoarders? Because they do this stuff all of the time.

    I fear for Bubba.

  3. Man Finny -- this is looking like a LOT of work. I hope it works well and you get LOTS of little seedlings in the spring!

  4. Some of this stuff I want to learn just so I can say, "HOLY COW I AM SO GLAD WE DON'T DO IT THAT WAY ANYMORE." So so much work for so few seed. Again, amazed that slaves were able to effectively bring seed for okra and other west african food favorites with them on ships and have it all work out.
    Amazingly hardy -- those seeds.

  5. Sara -- I'm worse. Like, old volkswagen part hoarding worse.


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Look at you commenting, that's fun.

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Sucks, right?

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