Friday, August 17, 2012

There's Seed Saving and There's Seed Saving Part Deux

Well the worst of summer seems to have passed.  At least here in Middle Tennessee.  Temperatures have dropped mostly into the 80's and rain arrives with almost plannable regulatrity.  The garden is humming along nicely with a steady flow of vegetables coming ripe.  The mulch has truly revolutionized our garden, as we had hoped.  It is not completely weed free, but, if you consider the level to which we are not weeding out there, it is certainly weed free enough!

The big push right now is seed saving.  My sweetheart says that you are not truly growing your own food until you successfully harvest from plants grown from saved seed.  I agree.  In this year's garden I have had great success with at least three saved tomato varieties.

From left to right we have Kenny's Gold Cherries, Tiffany Black Cherries, and Nick-n-Nic Gold Tomatoes.  Each has it's story.  You've heard the story of Kenny Freeman before and if you haven't you can click here. I've had them running true for over 20 years!

Tiffany Black Cherries came from the garden of a new friend.  Tiffany gave me enough of these dark rich beauties to both delight in their winy deliciosity and to save seed.  They bear abundantly and are true to their parentage.

The Nick-n-Nic's are another story.  Last year I saved these seeds from a plant that my neighbors (Nick and Dominic) at Mammoth Cave seasonal housing were growing.  The tomatoes on that plant were no more than an inch long and were perfect golden pears.  About like this:

I both planted and gave away many of these seeds with an appropriate description.  When the tomatoes started to emerge however, I could see that I was ending up with a completely different variety. 
They are still gold and still firm and flavorful, but instead of tiny pears I ended up with golden paste tomatoes!

What this means is that the original Nick-n-Nic tomatoes were hybrids, crosses of two or more other plant varieties.  Seeds of hybrids will rarely if ever grow true to their parents.  This is where seed saving can become quite interesting.  Planting the seeds of hybrids gives you unexpected results and sometimes very interesting varieties can emerge.  Sometimes hybrid seeds will result in plants of several different types.  In this case every plant I kept from the Nick-n-Nic yielded the same tomato type.  Am I saving seeds from them?  But of course I am!!  I can't wait to see what I get next year!  The only differences will be:  I won't pass them on to anyone else until I know what I have, and I will now call them Nick-n Nic F- (F1 is the typical designation for a first generation single cross hybrid.)

So, I promised this spring that I would show you the basic process for seed saving.  Here it is!
 Squeeze (or scrape, depending on the vegetable) the seeds into a jar.

Add water
 Shake well and set on the counter.  Shake a couple of times a day for the next three days or so.
Carefully drain off most of the liquid along with as much rotting detritus as possible.  Then pour the seeds out onto a plate.  Let them dry and then package them.  (In the past I have always just dried my seeds on a plate, but this year I find that a folded paper towel between the seeds and plate greatly reduces drying times!)
I'll be saving seeds from many new varieties this year.  Here is one of my favorite new attempts.  I found them in my friend Brandi Button's garden, so I shall call them Saffron Buttons!  (I think I should start a seed company.)

This method is good for all seeds that come from moist fruits: peppers, watermelons, eggplant, squashes and the like.  The soaking time removes a coating on the seeds that inhibits sprouting. 
Save away!

1 comment:

Mamallamasmama said...

Thanks for the tip. I've always just put the seeds on a paper towel and let them dry. I do need a new Kenny Gold. I also just planted the seeds with the paper towel . I still have time to do it right!!!