Category Archives: Seed Saving

Midwinter Merriment: Start Seeds Indoors

Here it is – a countdown til spring. From now until the first day of spring, I will post ways to make the dreary days of midwinter a little more merry.

Day 15: Start seeds indoors.

seedlingsNothing is as satisfying as getting your hands dirty in February as you sow seeds indoors that will be transplanted outdoors in late spring. Visions of tomatoes dance in my head and watching for sprouting seeds like a kid with her nose pressed up against a window is delightful! Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow!

Still not sure what to grow when in the Pacific NW? The Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide is my go-to resources and it will show you the way!

Check out this article from Organic Gardening magazine for tips on getting your seeds started!

Day 16: Sew a sassy garden tool belt.
Day 17: A class that keeps on giving!
Day 18: Buy yourself some flowers.
Day 19: Go to the park and play!
Day 20: Plant peas (and sign up for my free newsletter!)
Day 21: Take a gardening class.
Day 22:Plant bare root.
Day 23: Sign up for Seattle Seedling’s Spring Fling!
Day 24: Plant primroses.
Day 25: Get yourself a doughnut and make it “for here.”
Day 26: Frequent the Farmers’ Market
Day 27: Eat Root Vegetables Disguised as Cake!
Day 28: Be a Garden Show Goer.
Day 29: Drink more hot chocolate.
Day 30: Create a springtime “advent” calendar.

The Top Ten Seeds and Recipes for Your Garden and Table

Last week I wrote a post (this one) about four things you can to do get your garden ready for the New Year. Yet I must confess, I haven’t completed any of those tasks myself. So, I’m taking my own advice and am getting my garden in gear.

The first thing I suggested in that aforementioned post was to make a list of the things you like to eat and grow before logging on to your favorite seed catalog’s site and breaking the bank. Today’s post is my list. Of course, I did a lot of seed saving last year so I’ve already made a lot of seed decisions, but I thought it would be fun to take stock of the vegetables I love the most. These were my favorite, tried-and-true seed varieties and recipes from 2012. You better believe they’ll be making a comeback in my garden and to my table.

A la Dave Letterman, we’ll start with number 10 and work down to my number one favorite!

peas10. Sugar Snap Peas

Why? Because I love the satisfaction I get from being able to put these seeds in the ground so early in the year. And I love staring into the vines with a bowl on my hip, trying to see the camouflage pods. Irish Eyes: Sugar Daddy Snap Peas

Favorite recipe: No recipe for this one since this was my favorite snack of the year – a container full of fresh snap peas with a side of tamari-roasted almonds helped me get through the day many times.

9. Lettuce – Tom Thumb

Why? Of all the lettuce I grew last year, the little Chartreuse heads of lettuce I got from this Tom Thumb variety were the best, sweet and delicious. Of course, I always grow a few others to make my salads a little more interesting, but Tom Thumb is a mainstay these days. Baker Creek: Tom Thumb

Favorite recipe: Simple salad – these small heads of lettuce are the perfect size portion for one hungry girl. I’d cut the root off of the bottom, which would release all of the leaves, wash them and dress them with a simple vinaigrette.

beets8. Beets – Bull’s Blood

Why? Even though I think it’s actually more economical to just buy these from the farmers’ market, especially considering my beet-growing track record, I can’t help but try again. I love eating beets and even if the roots themselves don’t grow up to my standards, I can still take advantage of the greens, which is reason enough. Baker Creek: Bull’s Blood

Favorite recipe: Beet Green Smoothies and Oven-roasted Beet Salad with Blood Oranges 

carrots_ground7. Nantes Carrots

Why? I’ve had the best luck growing this variety. While my purple carrots fizzle out, these  always grow beautifully. I’ve learned to grow them in deep containers and to thin them so they have room to grow. Seeds of Change: Scarlet Nantes Carrots

Favorite recipe: Cumin Seed Pickled Carrots

6. Arugula (Rocket)

Why? Because I’ve missed it so much. I didn’t grow it last year or put my first crop in a place where it could grow and reseed itself. My salads were just not the same. Lesson learned. Baker Creek: Arugula

coriander5. Cilantro*

Why? Partly because my cilantro plants that I let go to seed last year produced so much coriander (cilantro seed) that I have to plant it again. A girl just cannot eat that much coriander, even if she tried! This is a double-duty plant – you can eat the tender cilantro leaves and then use the seeds as an edible spice. Although it’s likely the plant dropped enough seeds on its own to produce another bumper crop. Seattle Seed Company: Slow Bolt Cilantro

Favorite recipe: Creamy Cilantro Dressing – turns out, mixed with some lime-drenched shredded cabbage, this dressing makes the best side dish for carnitas.

4. Trail of Tears Black Beans*

Why? Because I think it’s super cool to be able to eat a pot of black beans that I grew in my backyard. These beans are another double-duty plant – can be eaten and canned as green beans or dried and eaten in a taco. Saving seeds from these beauties is effortless. Plus, I love my bike trellis and these beans like to climb. Baker Creek: Cherokee Trail of Tears Black Beans

Favorite recipe: Butternut squash tacos with black beans

chard3. Bright Lights Chard

Why? Because it is tasty, nutritious and a sweet addition to my smoothies. Plus, they don’t taste bitter when they bolt. Score! Baker Creek: Silverbeet Chard

Favorite recipe: Simple saute – with a little olive oil, garlic and a hefty squeeze of lemon.

2. Kale*

Why? Because dark, leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses and this baby loves our climate. I’m still harvesting pounds of kale from the plants I started in late summer. Seattle Seed Company: Lacinato Kale and Red Russian Kale

Favorite recipe: Raw Tuscan Kale Salad – I could eat this for days.

Drumroll please…

1. Stupice Tomato*

Why? Of all the tomatoes I grew, the Stupice was the first to produce, the first to ripen (In June, Seattle people. In June.), and the most productive. Baker Creek: Stupice Tomato

Favorite recipe: The Bomb Tomato Concentrate (a.k.a. tomato paste goodness) – this recipe was by far the best use of my tomatoes and will probably be the way I put up the bulk of my tomatoes next year. It’s fantastic because you can use pretty much any kind of tomato, including cherry tomatoes, and can freeze them using an ice-cube tray. The result is the perfect size of tomato goodness to add an amazing burst of flavor to almost anything you make. My lentil soups have never tasted so good.

Seeds marked with a * are seeds that I grew and saved in 2012. Those not marked will be purchased or a prior purchase of said seeds will be used up. Also, this list does not include the volunteer edible flowers that will inevitably come up from the seeds they dropped. I can’t seem to get enough nasturtiums or calendula.

More seed resources:

My Seed Larder

I may be more proud of my seed larder than I am my pantry of canned goods. These seeds represent several years of gardening education. I’ve been wanting to ween myself off the annual seed catalog shopping spree for a while and now I’m slowly but surely getting to that place.

With the dried beans, I still have a way to go. Sure I have enough beans for planting next year, but hardly enough to eat. I ended up with about two quarts of heirloom Trail of Tears black beans and only a pint of Yin Yang beans. I may or may not eat a pot of those. We’ll see what I end up with next season. At least for now, I have more than enough seeds for planting.

I have coriander for days (and years). It produced like gangbusters – just under two quarts worth! I’ll be planting some and eating my way through a jar this year. I see a lot more Indian cooking in my future.

The calendula produced like crazy too and I would have ended up with more seeds had I been more motivated to save them all. I imagine I’m going to have volunteer calendula all over the place next year. In fact, I already see little green sprouts around the calendula bed that look an awful lot like calendula seedlings. I might end up the salve queen.

And then, there are the tomatoes. I’m very proud of those. I made sure to save seeds from the first and best Stupices because they were my very best producers by far. I saved a few others for variety. I saved some lacinato kale seeds too. I can’t wait to grow that again next spring.

Now is the time to store your seeds properly so they make it through the winter and remain viable for when you want to plant them in the spring. In fact, if you store them properly, you could have viable seeds for more than a year!

The most simple way to save seeds is in a mason jar with a lid. I like to use a wide mouth quart jar for the job. Some of my jars have seeds in them, others have seed packets and envelopes of seeds in them. Those jars are then stored in the refrigerator. I have dedicated a crisper drawer to my seed collection. For good measure, I drop in one of those little silica capsules that sometimes come in bottles of supplements or vitamins, when I have them. You can buy Silica Gel Desiccants Packets and put them in the jars with your seed envelopes. I’ve never gone through the trouble of ordering them though. The bottom line is you want to keep your seeds moisture-free.

To learn more about heirloom vegetables and seed saving, check out these books:

Video: Seed Saving is Ugly

I’m just going to put this out there. Seed saving is ugly. If you didn’t know any better, you’d take one look at my yard and think I let my once beautiful garden go. The browning leaves I see everywhere make me feel guilty of garden neglect. Brown brings to mind forgotten, dying plants. Somewhere along the lines we’ve learned this. Green is good, brown is bad.

The bolted greens that tower and lean over my garden beds look out of place and unkempt. But I know the truth. I know these plants are not being ignored. They have not been neglected – they are bearing edible dry beans, spices and seeds for next season.

Even though I know this to be true, I have to constantly remind myself of this every time I walk into my yard. School started last week and my two worlds as working girl teacher and urban farmer, collided. I see things all around me that need to be done, but there are only so many hours in the day and only so much energy to get everything done.

Luckily, nature is on my side. A long string of dry, sunny days have been ripening my tomatoes and drying the pods of seeds I am saving. Things look like they are in disarray, but really my little farm is still thriving, paying me back for all the love I’ve put into it.

I especially love my garden in June when everything is seemingly maintained, “pretty” and in bloom. I’m starting to notice now that the organized chaos of late summer, the myriad of khaki that abounds, makes me anxious. So maybe what my garden really needs is a little unconditional love. Maybe my June and September gardens are like lightness and darkness. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. Dark is merely the absence of light and without one you can’t have the other. Maybe what I need to do is adjust my idea of beauty. Maybe it isn’t beautiful or ugly, positive or negative, good or bad. Maybe it just IS. This is my garden in September and it’s harvest time. It’s kinda “ugly”, but isn’t it beautiful?!

* The song on today’s video has been a favorite of mine since the first time I heard it. So many of the silly things she sings about I can relate to – most gardeners probably can.  A dear gardener friend (Hi Amy!) shared it with me and now I share it with you! Enjoy!