Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Seed Saving

Sometime in mid-September, I stopped harvesting my broccoli, which was probably a bit premature on my part, because the variety I planted was a long-producing variety, specifically, so that I could have broccoli for a long time.  We like broccoli - especially fresh from the garden -, but also, mid-winter, we love to have a stir-fry or fried rice dish and being able to add frozen broccoli that was from our summer garden, is such a treat.

There actually was some logic to my apparent negligence.  I didn't just stop harvesting the broccoli out of laziness.  I was, actually, trying to let it go to seed so that I could save some of them for next years' crop.  The broccoli grew really well for me, and I figured, if that's true, then the seeds I gathered would be well suited to my soil, climate, and location.

The only problem with the plan is that, in the past, I haven't been great at storing the seeds to keep them viable.  In fact, I've harvested seeds in the past, but then, I put them in my seed stash, which was, until recently, and old oatmeal container on a shelf in my office.   

So, for those who don't know, storing seeds in an oatmeal container in my office is not the best idea. 

This spring, I found this huge stash of seeds I'd been collecting over the years.  Some were really old.  I was pretty sure none of them would germinate.  I took these dozens of packets of old seeds outside, and I dampened the packages.  Most of the seeds didn't germinate, and I resolved to do better, because I know better.  There's no excuse, really.   

It's silly of me not to have taken better care with my seeds.  After all, seed storage is the ultimate in "prepping".  There are so many uses for seeds - even beyond planting them for harvest later.  There are a lot of seeds that can be sprouted for salads during the winter.  What a treat to have something fresh and green (and LOCAL!) in the middle of a snowstorm in April when our bodies are craving fresh and green food after a long winter of stored vegetables. 

The sprouts can also be used as animal fodder.  That is, in a worst case scenario, if I have properly stored an adequate amount of seed, I could feed my rabbits sprouts all winter until we're able to forage other sustenance for them.  That way, if I lose access to the commercial feed, I can still feed them.

I found this article to be particularly handy in helping motivate me to better storage.  I have mason jars (a LOT of mason jars), and with the guide to which seeds do best in storage, I can divide my seeds into different jars based on how quickly they should be used.

In addition to collecting my own seeds, however,  I do like to purchase some seeds, and now is a good time to find them.  Last years' stock will be going on sale or will have already gone on sale, while local retailers are looking to get rid of what they have to make room for other stuff they want to sell.  Storing them the same way as described in the above linked article - in the fridge in a mason jar in which you've added some dried milk wrapped up in a cheesecloth (for moisture control) - will allow you to keep this year's stock viable for next year's produce.   


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