A Culinary Adventure, From Gardens and Markets to Restaurants and Home Kitchens
Sep 5, 2012
03:30 PMLocal Flavor
Throwing Seeds Into the Wind
This labor day weekend I labored. Like many of my neighbors I tried to finish a project or two. I painted the stairwell, sort-of organized the garage (which means throwing all of the wheeled toys out of the doorway), weeded the garden, and laid mulch. As I was flinging things out of my way in and around the garage, I came across an item that actually helped me cross one other task off my to-do list—a round plastic sled.
A sled in the summer? No, I wasn’t channeling winter. Nor was I swatting flies. I was winnowing seeds. This year my cilantro, parsley and lettuce bolted, as they normally do, with the intense heat. But instead of tossing the mature plants into the compost bin, I decided to hang them to dry. And presto, a month later, the dry seeds are ready to be cleaned off the plant and used in cooking, or for the next planting season.
I gained my first experience saving seeds when I worked as a “seed technician” for Native Seeds/SEARCH, an heirloom seed conservation organization located in Tucson, AZ. Then, as I traveled through South America and Africa, I discovered that most people saved seeds because they had tofor food and for the next year’s crop. I am generally lazy when it comes to saving seed from my own garden. I know it is something I should do more often, just like eating salmon, or playing dolls with my daughter. But I can always buy a packet of seeds from the store, right?
Last year I spent over $60 on seeds for my very small garden. Considering I plant generally the same crops year to year-- beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach, cilantro, parsley, carrots, garlic, chard and kale-- it just makes sense to save my own seeds when I can. Though removing and drying the seeds of many plants is laborious, the seeds of lettuce, parsley, beans and coriander are easy to pluck, dry, shuck and winnow.
Winnowing itself is not too hard. It's all in the wrist. But it does require a bit of practice. And a sled. Kidding. Any large, flat bowl-shaped item can work. I am not a pro, by any means (as you will note in the video!). I tend to drop seeds as I go. But I am getting better at it, and I am proud that I now have bags of cilantro, parsley and lettuce seeds for next year’s garden. Now, what to do with those old garden stakes...kebab skewers, perhaps?