Seed Saving 101

So last year we saved a little bit of arugula and spinach seed. This year we went all out and let an entire planting of spinach and arugula (about 45′ each) go to seed for next year. I wound up with 4lbs of spinach seed and almost 5lbs of arugula seed… that’s a lot of seed. It should carry us through next year, and we’ll save more for the year after. On top of all that, we also saved about a pound of red mustard seed, accidentally. I forgot about the little planting that was in the middle of the new asparagus and it went to seed before we got to it… oops.

And then there are the beans! Oh, I love growing dry beans. Despite the low return per bed foot, they are incredibly satisfying to clean and then to eat. I may not hunt, but damn can I grow some protein. We wound up with almost 50lbs of dry beans total, including black beans (not pictured here), Jacob’s Cattle beans, and Golden Beans. We be eating these for a few years, and won’t have to plant them next year, leaving more room for something else!

The seed saving process for seeds that develop in some sort of pod (eg. NOT squash or tomatoes or peppers) is simple. If it’s dry outside, let the plant go to seed and allow the seed to dry and harden in their pods in the field until you can hear them rattle when you shake the plant. If it’s not so dry, make sure the seeds have grown to complete maturity and then hang the entire plant in a barn, garage, or other well ventilated and dry space. Once dry, simply pile the plants on a tarp and stomp on them until most of the seeds have fallen out of their pods. Shake and pile again. Repeat as necessary. Remove the plants and compost them (aware that they will still have some seeds in the pods which will likely germinate next spring).

Dump the seeds on the tarp into a large bucket. Get a large box fan. Turn it onto high for things like dry beans which are really heavy, and medium or low for little seed like arugula and spinach. Put an empty bucket in front of the fan and slowly pour the seed from one bucket to the other, allowing it to pass in front of the fan so that the chaff and dust blows away and the seed drops directly into your empty bucket. (Photos for that part of the process next year). And voila. Seeds for next year and/or dry beans for eating.

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