Seeds, Seed saving and Self sown seeds
When you have vegetables that grow well in tough times, leave the healthiest and strongest to set seed and collect and store the seed ready for use the next season. This way the vegetables you grow will be progressively better adapted to our conditions.
Annual Varieties are the Easiest to save
Annual varieties are the easiest to gather. Annuals flower and go to seed in the same year. Biennials flower and go to seed the second year after planting. Biennials include things like chard, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, onions, parsley, parsnips, rutabaga, and turnips.
Harvest Seeds from the Healthiest Plants
Harvest seeds from the healthiest plants. The seeds from healthy plants will tend to be healthiest. Stunted or sickly plants should not be harvested for seeds.
Gather Seeds only superior plants
Gather seeds only from a representative fruit or plants, not a stunted or discolored one. Pick the plants that produce the flavour and colour you are trying to preserve. There may be other characteristics you want to preserve. For example you may notice that one particular plant showed particular resistance to a pest that affected other similar plants.
It’s not a bad idea to label seeds as you go as after a few months as it’s easy to forget what’s what. Label them clearly as you harvest them. Use masking tape on the fruit, or label each container.
‘Dry’ seeds include beans, peppers/chillies, basil and members of the Onion and Carrot Families. Cleaning dry seeds usually involves simply drying and crumbling the pods or husks, then screening or ‘winnowing’ the seeds to separate them from the chaff
Harvest dry seeds from their plants when their pods or husks have dried. Some seeds can be picked before they are fully dried on the plants if rains threaten. Other plants, however, (i.e.,Mustard family), will not finish ripening once they have been removed from the plant. Leaving seeds on the parent plant to full maturity and dryness is always preferable.
Once pods or husks have been harvested, store them in a dry place and wait until they are thoroughly dry. When the pods or husks are dry enough they will easily crumble between your hands. Crumble the pods or husks until all the seeds are released. Then place seeds and chaff in a bowl or box and swirl or shake gently. Most of the larger chaff pieces will rise to the top and can simply be removed by hand.
Seeds and finer chaff are easy to separate by a variety of methods. One way is to use two screens of varying mesh, one a little smaller than the seeds and the other a little larger. The first screen lets anything smaller than the seeds fall through, and the second lets the seeds through and stops anything larger.
‘Wet’ seeds are found in such plants as tomatoes, eggplants and many squashes. Cleaning wet seeds requires washing to clean the seeds and to separate them from the surrounding pulp
In addition, in some cases wet seeds (such as tomatoes) are best fermented for several days to remove germination-inhibiting substances from the seed coats. Fermenting can also help by killing moulds, mildews and other disease organisms that may be present on the seeds after growing. To prepare seeds for fermenting, simply squeeze or scoop the seeds—together with the pulp that surrounds them—into a jar with a little water (about half as much water as seeds and pulp). There is no need to include more pulp than naturally comes with the seeds. Store this seed/pulp mixture in a warm place (75 to 85º F) for 1½ to 5 days (depending on the seed type and whether conditions are warmer or cooler).
Fermentation will be evidenced by bubbling and/or by the formation of a white mould on the surface of the mixture. As soon as the bubbling or mould have been evident for a day or so, pour the mix into a bowl and clean
Encourage self-sown vegetables and edible weeds. Curly endive, lettuce, mustard greens, nasturtiums, parsley, chard, and salad herbs and vegetables that you never actually have to re-plant – just let them go to seed and they pop up somewhere in the garden every year.
Encourage dandelions, and nettles – common weeds that need no water or attention, but are valuable additions to the diet. Open-pollinated, or heirloom, plants are often less fussy and good for less experienced gardeners.