Thursday, May 19, 2011

Saving Brassica Seed

Time to harvest seed, 5-17-11

      Some of the brassica crops from last year seem fully seeded.  In any event, the plants are so large they are getting in the way and shading other plants.  The seed stalk on the left is from the mild tasting mustard plant that was a previous volunteer that overwintered.  Two good attributes to making me want to save some seed.  The yellow flowered plant on the right side are multiple plants of Beedy's Kale that overwintered in a bed of garlic.  Now the kale is shading out the garlic and needs to be removed.  The bees and wasps have loved the flowers of all of the various blooming brassicas, and flocks of Gold Finches fly off from the seed heads as I approach the garden.  But it is time for the seed harvest!

Mild Mustard seed pods, 5-17-11

      These are the seed stalks cut from the mild mustard.  The thingies that look a little like beans are the seed pods.  When they are a little smaller, they are quite tasty eaten raw.  If you open a seed pod in this green state, the seeds are green and soft.  The pods need to dry so the the seed dries to a stable storable state.  You can take individual stalks and strip them of the pods by running your clenched fist along the stalk.  Backwards, from tip to bottom, seems to strip the stems more easily for me.

Mustard Seed Pods, 5-17-11

      These are the stripped pods from the mild mustard.  They need to dry out and turn yellow.  You can actually leave them in the garden to dry, or hang them still attached to the stems from a dry hanging spot.  But as they dry, the pods will often crack and drop their seed, thus you need a container underneath.  The large paper bags formally found in grocery stores would work great to store and dry the seed stalks.  Trouble is finding the bags.
      The seed pods should dry completely and will turn yellow or a straw like color.  The pods will then be brittle and break easily, revealing the little round brown seeds.  Crush the pods by hand or any method you like better.  The pile of seeds and pod chaff can be separated by lightly blowing away the chaff.  Now the seeds are ready for planting this fall for a crop, or early next spring.  I store mine in small envelopes, away from high humidity.  The seeds are also great for sprouting for your very own zesty organic sprouts.  Something fresh from your garden in the middle of winter.  As mustard is basically ground mustard seed and vinegar, you could try to make your own.  I would rather put the seeds in a pepper mill and grind them as a fresh flavor enhancer.
      On 5/7 I harvested the mild mustard seed and Beedy's Kale.  Today I gathered Mizuna mustard seed to dry.  There are many different seeds in the garden that I still want and need to harvest.  The brassica family vegetables are supposed to cross easily so as to make seed saving pointless.  So far I have not had a problem with weird crosses.  Don't know why, so I will continue to save seed.

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