Saving Seeds from Biennial Plants

Saving Seeds from Biennial Plants

This month we asked two experienced staff members at Seed Savers Exchange to share their knowledge about saving seeds from biennials. Our Field Manager, Bryan Stuart, and one of our Field Technicians, Trevor Madsen, took the time to answer a few questions about biennial plants. Read on for their detailed responses or click through the slideshow for some quick biennial seed saving steps.

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An Afternoon in the Preservation Lab

An Afternoon in the Preservation Lab

The Preservation Lab at Seed Savers Exchange was buzzing with activity on this Friday afternoon in February. With about 13 full-time employees whose specializations range from germination testing to seed storage and everything in between, there's always something interesting happening in the Preservation Lab.

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Apple Pie: One more reason to preserve heritage apples

Apple Pie

Seed Savers Exchange Orchard Manager Dan Bussey is known around Heritage Farm for a lot of things. Most obviously he’s known for a vast knowledge of heritage and heirloom apple diversity and his upcoming book documenting thousands of them. In fact, he’s known nationally for his knowledge on everything apples. Still, many staff members know him for his colorful comments on all-staff e-mail threads; a few lucky folks know him for his skills as a hard cider and apple brandy maker; if you’re in the right place at the right time, you know him for his fantastic apple pies. I recently caught up with Dan one morning and tagged along as he performed his magic, whipping up one of these famous pies.

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When you have an orchard like Seed Savers with 550 apple varieties, no two pies are the same (or at least they shouldn’t be—what’s the fun in that?). Knowing which varieties were ripe and ready this week, Dan led us through the orchard to collect apples from the Lewis Incomparable, Worchester Pearmain, and Summer Gold trees.  I asked Dan what the pros and cons were for using multiple varieties in one pie. The obvious answer was because of the complexity an assortment of apples will add to the flavor, but also that different textures can be complementary. Having one apple variety that cooks down and loses its form will give the pie an apple filling to supplement the other, firmer apple slices. Just remember to slice harder apples thinner and slice softer apples thicker. Dan also mentioned how Northerners have traditionally used tart apples for their pies, while Southerners prefer sweeter apples, so the level of sweetness for pie apples is a matter of preference.

After collecting the apples we headed inside to prepare the pie. Here’s what we used:

  • 6-10 baking apples (For apples that hold their shape, use less; for apples that cook down, use more)
  • Crust (make your own or buy pre-made)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rounded cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon rounded tapioca (for thickener)
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch allspice
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons milk or cream
  • lemon juice

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Peel and slice apples, putting them in lemon water to prevent oxidization and to provide a little tartness. Slice thin for firmer apples that hold their shape when cooked, such as Lewis Incomparable, and slice thick for varieties that cook down, such as Worchester Pearmain or Summer Gold. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare crust and place bottom crust in pie pan, letting it hang over the edge. Remove apple slices from lemon water and toss in a bowl with sugar, cinnamon, tapioca, ginger, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Arrange apples slices so there are no gaps or empty spaces. Brush on milk or cream on bottom crust as glue, and place top crust over apples. Using a fork, apply pressure around the edge to seal. Fold bottom crust over top crust, and make your way around the edge, pinching to seal. Cut slits in the top crust to allow steam to vent out. Sprinkle pie with cinnamon, sugar, and Vietnamese cinnamon, to taste. Place in preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until bubbles and steam come out of the vents.

If you have tips, tricks, or suggestions for making a good apple pie, leave a comment below!

Help Seed Savers Exchange preserve our apple heritage by becoming a member or making a donation today.

About Seed Savers Exchange (SSE): Located six miles north of Decorah, Iowa, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds.  Seed Savers maintains a collection of thousands of open-pollinated varieties, making it one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.

Varietal Evaluations: Carrots

data-entry

The Preservation Department at Seed Savers Exchange works hard to maintain the rare collection of heirloom varieties we've acquired from farmers and gardeners over the past few decades. In order to keep this collection alive and well, our staff carefully plans and implements grow-outs to evaluate the varieties and regenerate seed stock. As part of this evaluation process, staff take meticulous notes about the characteristics of each variety when grown out. These photos document the evaluation process of a few carrot varieties (Daucus carota) after harvest, although evaluations of each variety really begin with the seed before it is planted.  

Carrot Evaluations

 

 

 

Freshly harvested and cleaned carrots.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Photos

 

 

 

Horticultural Technician Steffen Mirsky takes portrait photos of the harvested varieties.

 

 

 

 

 

Data Entry

 

 

 

Detailed information is entered into a database for each variety on such characteristics as color, shape, length, and weight, as well as other criteria.

 

 

 

 

Carrot Scan

 

 

Varieties are then scanned and archived with the collected data.

 

 

 

 

Raw ‘Jaune de Doubs’ Carrots

 

 

 

The carrots are sliced to analyze interior characteristics and for raw taste-testing (picture: 'Jaune de Doubs').

 

 

 

 

 

Steaming Carrots

 

 

The carrots are steamed until tender. The steamed carrots are tasted and evaluated for culinary use.

 

 

 

 

Cooked ‘Amstel’ Carrots

 

Summary descriptions of each variety are written for the SSE Yearbook, with the hope that these descriptions will encourage gardeners to take the seeds from our collection and put them in their gardens and on their dinner tables (pictured: 'Amstel').

 

 

Please consider becoming a member of Seed Savers Exchange to support these preservation and evaluation efforts. Along with many other benefits, SSE members are able to access thousands of rare and unique heirloom seeds offered by other members in our annual Yearbook. Seed Savers Exchange also offers seeds from our vast collection in the Yearbook, allowing members much more diversity to choose from than what's available in the commercial catalog. In 2013, Seed Savers Exchange is offering 2,431 different varieties in the Yearbook for members to request. Join us today to help conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage.

 

Join SSE

Located six miles north of Decorah, IA, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds.  Seed Savers maintains a collection of thousands of open pollinated varieties, making it one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.  For more information, go to seedsavers.org

 

Donate

2013 Conference and Campout Slideshow

Diane's garden tour

With nearly 400 attendees from across the U.S. and beyond, the 33rd Annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference and Campout was a huge success. Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) members are passionate about what they do, and events like this are important for networking, seed swapping, and sharing knowledge. The conference also introduced new seed savers and gardeners to resources, information, and gave many the inspiration to get started.

For the first time ever, Seed Savers Exchange held a Member Field Day on Friday before the conference started. Over 150 members were given behind-the-scenes tours and discussed possibilities for future member engagements with SSE staff and board members. It was a wonderfully productive day that is sure to become a fixture at future SSE Conferences.

Another highlight from the Conference was the distribution of former SSE member Mary Ann Fox's bean collection. SSE inherited Mary Ann's enormous seed collection after her passing in February, and successfully distributed the entire collection to seed savers at the Conference who were eager to carry on her legacy. Read about Mary Ann Fox in our blog and in Modern Farmer Magazine, and look to the Harvest edition of our membership publication, The Heritage Farm Companion, for in-depth coverage of both the member field day and the distribution of Mary Ann's bean collection.

 

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Click here to read about the 2014 Conference and Campout set for July 18-20, 2014

Check back on our blog to see more coverage of the 2013 Conference and Campout. Now posted: Gary Paul Nabhan's keynote address!

 

Located six miles north of Decorah, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds.  Seed Savers maintains a collection of thousands of open pollinated varieties, making it one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.  For more information, go to seedsavers.org

The Garden That Seeds Itself

Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory

Part 1: Springtime

Diane's Garden

"The Story of the Root Children" written by Sibylle Von Olfers was a book I read over and over to my children.  Each spring I am reminded of this tale when my garden is bare, completely void of any life on the surface, with a tremendous plant source lying beneath—the volunteers.

Soon after the first spring rain and the soil warms  I see evidence of life after winter, small sprouts all looking familiar and  similar.  The beauty and challenge of self-seeding annual flowers, herbs and sometimes vegetables is identifying them as volunteers.  Over the years I have learned to recognize the plants by their leaves, the order in which to expect their arrival, and where they reliably decide to grow.  I feel protective of these sprouts because they do not look much different than many weeds at this point.   Most plants are photographed when they are blooming and mature, not when they are just little sprouts.  Below are a few of these root children that I found in May while exploring my garden.  Look for them coming to your garden soon!

I appreciate nature's perfectly designed vignettes, combinations not found in any book or ones I want to compete with... so I don't.  I know 'Grandpa Ott's' morning glory will sprout and grow up the side of the barn, my 'Grandma Einck's' dill will volunteer in front of the 'Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate,' the calendulas are fine companions for any plants, 'Love-in-a-Mist' will scatter themselves everywhere knowing they can blend into any group and be just fine. Borage is  in the strawberry patch, 'Outhouse Hollyhock' along the fence, and violets are usually blooming before I even get into the garden.

Visitors sometimes say my garden feels so natural… well it truly is, one that naturally volunteers itself.

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Check back to the blog throughout this summer and autumn for more posts and pictures of my garden.

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Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange operates an 890-acre farm in northeast Iowa where thousands of rare fruit, vegetable, and other plant varieties are regenerated and preserved in a central collection. Its mission is conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. For information visit www.seedsavers.org

How to Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds

How to Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Heirloom tomatoes are the highlight of summer—beautiful colors and bountiful flavors! Preserve the bounty for next year by saving seed of your favorite tomato varieties. You only need a few fruit to get started, so watch the slideshow below and learn how. By doing so you'll carry on a gardening tradition that is many generations old.

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