If you have winter squash in your garden that are ready to be harvested, these simple steps can help you store them a bit longer so that you can delay processing, seed saving, and pie making until later in the winter when you’ve worked your way through your less patient produce.Read More
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.Read More
Part of the responsibility that comes with maintaining a seed collection containing over 20,000 rare garden varieties includes testing for and eradicating viruses and diseases. This week the staff in our Preservation Department were busy performing ELISA tests (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests) to identify any squash specimens infected with the squash mosaic virus (SMV). Roughly 1,000 seedlings were tested from 28 varieties.Read More
Are you an apartment dweller with a green thumb? Or a novice who's daunted by the thought of a full-blown garden? Well, don’t fear because we’re here with a list of lovely varieties that thrive in containers. And we’re here to tell you that you don’t need a yard to be a seed saver.Read More
Some people mistakenly believe that farmers have a “down season.” Without the twelve hour days harvesting and weeding, a winter spent reviewing crop spreadsheets and lounging by a wood stove might feel like vacation. Winter: that mythical space between the last harvest and first plantings, where all wrinkles get ironed out and new vortexes of time are uncovered. Day trips? Sleeping in? Hanging out with friends? Everything seems possible now, within this precious window. Winter slows everyone's roll, it’s true, but farmers are often working throughout the seemingly dormant season.Read More
In our grandparents' day seed saving was just part of gardening.
Store-bought seed, like store-bought anything, was a luxury for my Grandma. She could only afford to order what she couldn’t easily save- for instance, the seeds of biennial vegetables like carrot, cabbage, beets and kohlrabi. The whole community saved their garden seed back then. It was as natural to gardening as planting and harvesting crops. I helped my Grandfather pluck the seeds off his morning glories each fall and never thought I was doing anything out of the ordinary. The seed—along with the skills on how to save the seed—was passed down from generation to generation.
Over the years, this seed saving component of the garden has vanished and garden seed has become something you simply purchase each year from your favorite catalog or garden center. It is understandable, then, why new gardeners would not be aware of how their seeds were produced in the first place, and so the process is often perceived as somewhat mysterious.
Today, planning your garden for seed saving is really not that much different or any more difficult than it was back in the days of my grandparents. Some of my garden favorites like tomatoes, beans, peas and lettuce are self-pollinating crops that don’t readily cross, so they’re easy to save. Of course you must have non-hybrid varieties so the seed your harvest and plant will produce the same variety as the parent plant (read more about open-pollinated, hybrid, and heirloom seeds here).
This past year I was pleased to be involved in creating a new Seed Saving Collection for the Seed Savers Exchange catalog. This starter kit includes some of our popular varieties that could be grown side by side in one garden, plus step-by-step seed saving instructions for each crop type. I’m excited to offer a solution for all those gardeners who thought seed saving was somehow difficult. It’s easy to become a seed saver!
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.
Corn (Zea mays) is what we around here consider a ‘promiscuous pollinator.’ That’s because it is an outcrossing, wind-pollinated crop. Because corn relies on wind to carry pollen from the tassels to the silks, the light pollen grains may travel a few miles before finding and pollinating a silk. Your neighbor’s corn can therefore very easily pollinate yours, making it tricky to save pure seed from your open-pollinated corn.Read More
Seed Savers Exchange was proud to present our first-ever multi-day Seed Saving School last weekend to 19 enthusiastic participants from across the country and around the world.
Our most comprehensive workshop available, the Seed Saving School combined early-morning classroom lectures with hours of hands-on activities out in the field. Students had the rare opportunity to experience seed saving from start to finish: garden planning, plant isolation, hand-pollination, seed harvesting, seed cleaning, storage and seed sharing.
Friday morning began with introductions, and though our class was quite diverse (gardeners/entrepreneurs/teachers from the UK, California, Alberta, Iowa, Michigan…), everyone was united in their excitement for heirloom produce, biodiversity, sustainability and self-sufficiency. After a quick orientation to Heritage Farm and the various ways that we protect and promote our garden heritage, students headed to the gardens to begin harvesting heirloom tomatoes and squeezing out their seeds.
Saturday focused almost entirely on flowers. Collection Curator Jenna Sicuranza taught pollination, reproduction and lifecycles for common garden crops, then the class packed up for a field trip to The Pepperfield Project, where founder David Cavagnaro discussed seed saving on a home scale and overwintering biennials. In the afternoon, back at Heritage Farm, students learned hand-pollination and isolation techniques to keep seeds pure for outbreeding crops like corn, squash, cucumbers and mustards.
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Sunday’s activities related primarily to harvesting and cleaning seeds of various garden plants. We began with an illustration of market maturity vs. seed maturity, then proceeded to harvest beans, peppers, eggplant, squash and cucumbers with the intent to process them later in the day. After everyone built their own screens for seed cleaning, we spent the afternoon splitting squash, macerating peppers and eggplant, threshing and winnowing beans, and rinsing the tomato seeds we’d squeezed and left to ferment at the beginning of the course.
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By the end of the weekend, each student had a small collection of vegetable, flower and herb seeds to take home for planting next year. As we said ‘farewell’, I encouraged students to share their new seeds and new skills with friends and neighbors, or with fellow gardener/seed savers through our Seed Exchange.
These knowledgeable and enthusiastic participants give us an overwhelming sense of optimism about the future of our garden heritage. Folks like these—who continue to seek out experiences that allow them to preserve rare heirloom and open-pollinated varieties in their own backyards and pursue opportunities to connect with other seed savers—are vital to our mission.
Congratulations to all of our Seed Saving School graduates! Because of your success, we look forward to making our Seed Saving School a permanent fixture in the educational offerings at Heritage Farm.
For other gardeners interested in attending next year’s Seed Saving School, look for more details early in 2014.
Located in Decorah, Iowa, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.
There’s a chill in the air, and it’s time to fill your kitchen with the warm smells of sweet and savory dishes.
This Apple Upside Down Gingerbread recipe appeared in the 1999 Seed Savers Exchange calendar, and was created by world-class chef Richard Palm. The ingredients and method follows. Enjoy!
4 Tbsp. melted butter ¾ cup brown sugar 3 tart baking apples, peeled, halved, cored and thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray the bottom and sides of an 11 x 7 x 2” metal pan. Pour the melted butter into the pan and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over it. Arrange the thinly sliced apples over the butter and brown sugar.
Mix the following batter and pour it over the apples:
2¼ cups sifted, unbleached all-purpose flower ½ tsp. baking soda ½ tsp. salt 2 tsp. ground ginger 1 tsp. ground cinnamon ½ tsp. ground cloves ½ tsp. ground nutmeg ½ tsp. ground allspice 1 tsp. Dutch processed cocoa ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter/melted and cooled to room temperature ¾ cup molasses ¾ cup granulated sugar ½ cup buttermilk ½ cup milk 1 large egg
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, spices and cocoa in a bowl. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, molasses, sugar, buttermilk, milk, and egg. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the batter is smooth and thick (about a minute), scraping down often. Pour the mixture over the top of the apple slices in the prepared pan. Bake on the middle oven rack for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.