Starting a seed saving habit could be likened to that old saying about planting a tree.
You know, that one that goes:
‘The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the next best time is now.’
Except, although many seeds will sprout a baby tree… many will sprout a plant which may flower or fruit within the year!
So the saying could go:
‘The best time to plant a seed was a year ago. The next best time is now’
But before you can plant a seed… you must first have a seed to plant!
So even more important becomes the saying:
‘The best time to save a seed was a year ago. The next best time is now’
Some vegetables, like radishes and salad leaves, take only just under a month to mature!
When it comes to food security, seeds are the ultimate form of food resilience. A seed will grow an entire plant that will yield several or more vegetables; the better you get at it, the greater the yield (external factors aside.)
So it seems kind of foolish that many of us all too often throw our seeds away. I lived opposite an old landfill site and many fruit trees have sprung up upon the land, however its a shame that these fruiting trees, despite their resilience, may be offering contaminated fruit.
Many a compost dug into the ground has probably sprung a vegetable or two, however this often leads to proximity problems and the plant can’t establish itself as if it had been planted intentionally.
So in a time of economic uncertainty, a concern globally for health, and indication of changes to food availability, why are we throwing out seeds which might as well be gold?
Literally, seeds could be considered a true currency. One that is not at odds with nature, but actually is nature, and has exponential value to us humans as well.
More and more of us are becoming involved and interested in collecting and sharing seeds. Locally, there is a seed library operating in the community where I am living. I am also grateful to be connected to the kinds of people for whom sending and giving gifts of seeds is an act of kindness and community resilience.
I’m also aware that modern life can mean that we sometimes have upheaval in our life. Its not always the right time for us to plant a garden (although joining or starting a community one, or seedbombing a vacant plot is always an option!)
I might argue instead, that it’s always the right time – if you’re cooking with fruits or vegetables – to start a seed saving habit!
How to create a Seed Saving habit
For me it started with a half cut butternut squash. Cooking up a pumpkin soup (butternut is my pumpkin of choice) is like a ritual for me. I fell in love with pumpkin soup done well at a young age and it has long been one of my comfort foods and a go to for those rainy days. (Pumpkin soup how-to to follow! Watch this space.)
Where I am living we are incredibly blessed to have access to affordable organic produce, and a half-cut butternut pumpkin is something I pick up almost weekly from our local market-stall. Its ease of use is one of the appeals.
It’s also what got me thinking, that this is the easiest and most obvious place to start with seed saving.
Every time I make this soup, I scoop out the seeds and cut off the bit where the stalk had been. I keep the skin on because it’s full of nutrients, but I don’t include the seeds (I’ve tried and don’t recommend.)
During the year I moved from a place of my own into a more temporary housing arrangement where a compost was current. For a while the seeds were hitting the compost heap until one day it occurred to me that I was literally taking the only action needed to start a seed saving habit anyway!
I was scooping out the seeds!
All I needed to do was scoop them onto a surface where they could dry, and then store and keep them!
Sure, they’re a bit gooey, but spread them out and they will dry and the seeds will be easy enough to plant later.
This was the beginning of my seed saving habit.
Before long I found myself cutting an apple a different way and carefully prying out the apple-seeds with a small knife, resisting some of the passion-fruit seeds (you know, because the bit you eat is the seed), and keeping the centre of the capsicum.
Here are my tips for starting your seed saving habit:
- Start with the obvious – seeds you remove or spit out naturally. I started with pumpkin, capsicum, watermelon, citrus fruits etc. When you’re removing these seeds anyway, the only extra step is to consciously save them
- When you’ve started saving the seeds you’re already removing, it’s a good time to move on to seeds you might more consciously remove and save, rather than just those you save automatically. This might involve cutting out an apple core and scooping out the seeds, or cutting your tomato, cucumber or zucchini in slices and getting at the seeds that way.
- Use something from your recycle pile (if you have one) to dry the seeds, like a paper bag or a cardboard box broken up into bits, or plastic lids or containers etc.
- Once they have dried, collect by type of seed and store in jars/containers/bags and label accordingly.
- Get hold of a local planting season chart or find out when to plant by searching online.
- Learn to cultivate seeds and then get them growing in the ground.
- Seed saving is a gateway habit to gardening and food growing… but even if it’s not the right time in your life to be starting or maintaining a food garden, if you are cooking with or snacking on seeding fruits and vegetables, then it’s always the time to be saving those valuable seeds!
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