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How to store your favourite seeds till you sow next

How to store your favourite seeds

As poet Alfred Austin had once put it: “Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.”

It is said that spring is sooner recognised by plants than by men. It is almost the end of winter, which means it’s time to prepare your garden for the new season. Saving and storing seeds from your own vegetable and herb crops is one of the best possible ways to perpetuate your favourite varieties for next year. Open-pollinated varieties are best suited for seed saving. Unlike hybrids, their genetic traits are more likely to remain stable from generation to generation.Some crop species tend to pollinate themselves (selfers), while others rely on insects or wind to deliver pollen from nearby flowers (outcrossers). Peas, lettuce, and tomatoes are selfers and unlikely to cross-pollinate, even if several different varieties are growing in the same garden. For outcrossers, such as onions, genetic purity can be ensured only by growing a single variety of that crop in isolation from others or by excluding stray pollen with a green house or other enclosure. Just look for the healthiest plants for seed production.

Once you’ve collected the seeds, make sure to dry them thoroughly before packaging them in envelopes or jars. Label the packages carefully and correctly with dates and store them in a cool, dry place. Want to try? We tell you how…

LETTUCE

You need to allow a few lettuce plants to flower.Flowering and seed ripening within a single seed head continues for 3 or 4 weeks. The seeds can’t be harvested all at once. Collect them by shaking the top of a seed head into a paper bag or over a sheet spread on the ground; repeat every few days.Or cut a seed head midway through the ripening process. Bring it indoors and let it dry for a week. Rub it between your hands to release the seeds. Separate seeds from chaff by gently blowing on them.

TOMATO

Tomato seeds must be fermented to remove their gelatinous coating, and then dried. Wash the tomatoes and then cut in half horizontally. Gently squeeze tomato seeds and juice into a container. Place the container of seeds in a warm location -a sunny windowsill or the top of the refrigerator. Take the container to the sink and carefully remove the scummy surface with a spoon. Pour the contents into a fine sieve and rinse the seeds with water several times. Place the rinsed seeds onto the wax paper or coffee filter to dry.

CILANTRO

Cilantro, more popularly known as coriander, is a cool season herb. As the weather warms up in spring, coriander gets seedy. This herb isn’t really worth bothering to grow in summers. Wait till the seeds turns brown. Then, cut off the seed heads along with a few inches of stalk and hang them upside down in a brown paper bag. When the seeds are fully dry, they will fall out of the heads and into the bottom of the bag. Store the dry seed in a lidded glass jar in a cool, dry location.

PUMPKINS

For pumpkins, harvest mature fruits and store them for at least a month so the seeds can fully ripen before they are collected. Cut it open into halves and scrape out the pulp with a spoon. Separate the seeds from the pulp as much as possible and leave the seeds to dry for 2 or 3 weeks on a paper towel. Once dried, store them safely in an envelope for later use.

Larger seeds will have a better chance of germinating. One of the best places to store pumpkin seed is in your refrigerator.

ONIONS

Onions are biennials. They flower and set seed in their second growing season. Select the best bulbs and keep in storage.Replant them in spring. Let the seed heads mature and dry on the plant. When the black seeds begin to show, harvest the seed heads and allow them to continue drying indoors.Most of the seeds can be shaken loose. To release the rest, rub the dried seed heads between your hands.

BEANS

Beans self-pollinate unless growing side by side with another variety. Make sure you isolate varieties by 10 to 20 feet. Leave pods on the plants to dry completely.In wet weather, it may be necessary to harvest mature pods and dry them indoors. Once pods are dry and brittle, break them open by hand. Pea seeds can be saved using the same technique.

BASIL

Let the basil seed heads dry on the plant. Slightly crumble the seed heads to release the seeds. Blow away the chaff.

PEAS

Old traditions tell you to leave the peas on the plant until they are completely dry. Once you have the peas off the vine, simply put them in a sunny spot to dry completely. During the drying process, the seeds take nutrients out of the pod and store them.You’ll know the peas are ready for the next step when they are crispy to the touch, very hard, and they rattle when shaken. They are best stored in an airtight containers.

CHILLIS

Cut open fully mature chillis and scrape the seeds onto a paper towel or coffee filter to dry. Wear gloves to work with hot peppers. The seeds should be tan, beige or yellowish in colour. If they are white, they are yet to mature. Dry the seeds for 2 or 3 weeks before packaging and storing.

LADY’S FINGERS

Often referred to as okra, a long green pod with a ribbed and fuzzy skin, it is a popular vegetable in south India. Okra cross-pollinates. So, if you are planning on saving seeds, it is best to plant just one variety, or else the seedlings will not grow true to the parent plant. Allow the pods to get as big as they can. Either pick them off the stalk so that they can be dried off indoors or allow the pods to dry off naturally on the stalk before harvesting. Twist the dried pods in your hands to break open the seeds. Dry thoroughly for several days.Store in a cool, dry place in tightly closed containers until next season.

Category: Lifestyle

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