How to Start Seed Saving

 in Garden

This pumpkin is one of my Yucatecan varieties.  I am told not many people grow it anymore, and I can see why.  It attracted mold faster than any of my other plants. I had to continuously spray it twice a week ,once with neem and once with baking soda to keep it relatively healthy.  But it was worth it, 2 vines grew big strong and long. I’ve already had many healthy fruits and it looks like there will be a few more to come.

It is important to grow plants that are native to your region.  Not only are you keeping a piece of history alive but you are more likely to have a successful crop with a plant adapted to your region.  

Our vegetable and plant diversity is in drastic decline the only way to save them is by planting, eating, and seed saving.  If you are already a grower, you can support this system in two ways, one is to become a seed saver yourself and the other is to buy organic and heirloom seeds.  You are supporting not only local business but also local diversity when you support growers like The Seed Savers Exchange (IA), Organic Seed Alliance (WA), and many others.  I urge you to buy from a grower in your region, these listed above are for my anticipated family member readers see this list →  for your region.

We can by political not only in our actions but also in our investments and purchases.  Buying local means more local jobs and more money staying within your region of the country.

Another way to support local organic produce is the farmers market.  You will hear me time and time again tell you to find a local market, find local producers, grow and source you food locally.  I think it is the number one thing we can do as humans to be better humans. The food system is sick and broken. Transportation of food uses resources,  food waste is at an astronomical high and not only that, it’s started making people sick.  E. coli is only one of the many problems attached to the food system right now.  Local markets bring the produce from a much closer distance, farmers can calculate their harvest and lower waste.  Or you can get involved in a CSA where the farmer can plan what to give you based off what is most ready at the time.  No matter how you slice it there are more ways than ever to get involved in eating and growing locally.

How to start seed saving: In my experience these are the easiest plants to  learn how to seed save from

Lettuces and greens
Harvest the plant as normal until the leaves start to turn too bitter to eat.
Keep watering, but leave the plant alone until it starts to flower.
Keep watering.
After all the flowers fall off you will meet the seed pods. Every plant looks a little different but often they are 1 inch long skinny wiry looking things that get fatter and fatter as the seeds grow.
Keep watering until the first pods start to dry.
Stop watering and let the plant start to dry out.
Cut off the pods as soon as they look completely dry. If they start to open, cut them that very day or you will lose seeds and have volunteer mustard green all over the garden (sorry to say, you will already have volunteers everywhere once you start to seed save).
If any of the pods are still green I let them all dry out a little more hanging throughout the house in muslin bags.

Take care of the pumpkin vine until it matures completely.

For Halloween and sweet pumpkins this is until they sound hollow when knocked.
When ready, cut open the pumpkin by removing the stem and opening down the middle.  
Scoop out the insides and lay on a baking sheet, silicone mat or other plastic tray.
Remove as much of the extra gunk as possible to leave only seeds.
Leave seeds 5-7 days or until completely dry.
It’s very important to never wash a pumpkin seed before you save them, washed seeds will not sprout the next year. 

Chili Peppers
Care for the plant until peppers start to mature.
Leave one or two of the peppers unpicked until it is soft and very ripe.
Pick the pepper and lay on a cloth in a safe and warm area to dry.  (In my house this is NOT the kitchen counter, just a few weeks ago I lost a habanero pepper I was drying there.)
When completely dry or leathering and dry (depending on pepper size.)
Cut over the pepper and shake the dry seeds out.

Sorting seeds

Arguably, other than patiently waiting for the flowers to come, sorting seeds is the hardest part of being a seed saver. Depending on the seed type you maybe able to simply open the pod, dump the seeds and throw the extra dry bits int the compost.

Some seeds like basil however are small and the pods much more compacts. I sort these seeds by rubbing the dry pods gently against a mesh strainer with a bowl underneath.  Most, or at least enough, of the seeds fall through the mesh and the dry bits are easily removed.

There will come a point where you have too many seeds, be honest with yourself about how many you need to save.  Also be generous with your neighbors, coworkers and friends. Seeds should be shared with anyone who wants to grow them.

I store my seeds in tiny paper bags made from parchment paper that I store in another slightly bigger paper bag or glass jar that I can label. I organize all like type seeds together into general categories like, peppers, greens, melons etc., to make it easier when it comes time to plant.

I recommend using your seeds the very next year and saving a fresh batch, but keep a bumper stock until you harvest.  You never know what will happen, sometime caterpillars will eat your seed plant or a tomato will contract an illness making it improper to seed save from. Seeds keep up to 3 years, but become less viable (meaning fewer will sprout) with each passing year.

What do you do with all the food you grow?
I eat it!

Sometimes it is easier than others to come up with a dish for my garden fresh veggies, but luckily I have a lot of time to daydream about them as they are growing.

This week’s recipe is my little local pumpkins, stuffed into homegrown poblano peppers.
As my pumpkins and peppers grow up next to each other I already knew I had to eat them together.


1 local pumpkin (or zucchini)
1 carrot
2-3 g of fresh ginger (about the size of a finger tip)
2 cloves fresh garlic
sprig of fresh thyme
4-6 chili poblanos

Start by roasting the poblanos directly over the stove fire until evenly charred.
Place in bag or tupperwear while hot to steam and release the skin better.
When cool to the touch remove the skin. Make an opening along one side and removed the seeds.

Meanwhile grate the pumpkin, carrot, ginger and garlic. Mix together with thyme, salt and pepper.

Stir fry the filling in a bit of oil until the pumpkin and carrots are cooked.
Stuff the poblano chilis with the pumpkin filling and top with a simple tomato sauce and cashew cream as desired.



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    • Nik

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