14 Sept 2009

Last of the Summer Vine…

These little greenhouse beauties are just coming to the end of their fruiting season and in the spirit of learning about running a proper Veg Patch, I've been reading up about gathering seeds.  Yes, I know I could just pop over to the garden centre next year and buy some more (in fact, lots more as the choice is so great) but then we'd miss a valuable opportunity to teach the children about that whole 'cycle-of-life' thing.

The British Broadcasting Corporation, purveyors of Gardener's World and the Chelsea Flower Show (bless 'em), have this to say about gathering seed:
  • Choose a dry, windless day. Select a healthy, pest- and disease-free plant, whose seedpods look as if they're about to split. Cut off the entire seedhead.
  • Invert entire seedhead upside-down into a paper bag. Close bag without crushing seedhead and label. Place bag in a dry place for the seeds to ripen. (ooh, I like this one -  nice and neat.)
  • Check the seeds' progress regularly. When most of the seedpods have opened, tip out the contents onto a dry surface and separate seeds from any bits of seedhead still attached.
  • Store the cleaned seed in a small dry envelope, seal and label carefully. Keep in a cool, dry, airy place until ready to be used.
I'm not sure how this method would work for, say, tomatoes.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm picturing bags of soggy tomatoes slowly rotting - not good.  The answer would appear to be found in this month's Garden Illustrated, in an article called Saving Seeds (pg 24).  (I hope they won't mind if I just let you in on their tips for tomatoes. Maybe you'll go and buy the magazine, like I did.)

They say that tomato seeds need to be fermented in their own juice because the seeds have a gelatinous coating.  What you have to do (apparently) is scoop out the seeds, pop them in a jar with a little water and leave to ferment. A mouldy layer appears on the top of the liquid; it will have fermented once it smells slightly (3 to 4 days later). (O-kaaay. Not tempting me so far.) At this point, clean the seeds in a fine sieve under running water and dry on a porcelain plate (it's a very posh gardening mag). And this they call fun.

On the other hand, the Edible Playground recommends laying tomato seeds out on a sheet of kitchen paper and leave to dry. Might not work, but at least there's no smell!

If you have the time, why not find out more on these links:
BBC - collecting seeds
RHS - collecting and storing seed
The Edible Playground - Autumn in the Garden 
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