seed cleaning

the gardening season is pretty much on hold for another month before things start going in the high tunnel and greenhouse, but there are still some tasks that need to be done.  ma and i as you may have witnessed have a lot of projects going on, and they need lots of equipment and materials to perform, which means that we have a room dedicated to all of these things, refered to as the stuff room, because it is full of stuff.  i’ve been trying to make it a more useful space and getting rid of some of those things we are never gonna use.  in the process i also stumbled upon seeds that ma had saved from the fall.

cilantro seeds in a paper bag

i’m a big fan of saving seeds, i feel it ties me to the process gardening all that much more, and connects me to my ancestors.  it’s hard for me not to think about how many others have touched this same seed, held it in their hands.  to think how many people had to decide to save this seed in order for it to get in my hands.  but also to think about how much this seed has changed over the years, how different this seed is than that which others saved, how my act of saving this seed is also an act of breeding.

rubbing seeds off the stem

with seeds such as cilantro which tend to fall off the stems as they dry i like to store them in a paper bag hung from the ceiling.  that way if seeds fall off they just fall into the bag.  when they are fully dry then it’s time to clean them.  often to start removing the seeds from the stem i’ll simple shake the bag and whack it against a wall or something like that to knock the seeds off.  this works well for some seeds, but these cilantro seeds cling pretty tight so i have to rub them off with my fingers.  based on these photos, looks like someone needs to cut their nails.

once the seeds are off the stem there is plenty of debris left that you need to get rid of for the seeds to store well, go though a seeder and if you are trying to sell it – not have anyone accuse you of trying to rip them off by selling dirty seed.

cleaning the seeds in a sieve

you can buy professional screens for cleaning seed, and i’ve used them, but i’m pretty happy just using a series of sieves. they are pretty easy and cheap to pick ups at a thrift store, and the round shape makes it hard to have the seed roll out.  the idea is to use one in which the holes in the sieve are bigger than the seed and one in which the holes are smaller than the seed.  first you pass the seed though the one with large holes.  the seed and small material pass though, big stuff does not.  then you put it though a sieve that has small holes such as the sieve seen above.  small bits pass though and the seed remains.

even with all this grading the seed is still far from clean.  in order to get the last little bits of dirt and other material off the best thing to do is winnowing it: using a gentle stream of air to blow off the lighter material.  outdoors you can use the wind, but that can be kind of tricky as the wind is quit variable and sudden gusts of wind can blow your seeds away.  using a small fan indoors works better.  turn the fan on, and then gently toss the seed just a little bit into the air, or on really small seed or for the final cleaning you can just gently blow on it.  do this in a garage or someplace you don’t mind getting dirty.  the debris flies away and the seed falls back into your bowl.  this takes a little practice and a bit of time.

seeds in the freezer

after cleaning i pop the seeds in an air tight container and put them in the freezer.  cold air helps to seal the ring on the jar, but it also helps kill any little bugs that maybe  in with your seeds.  you want to absolutely certain that the seeds are fully dry before you put them in the freezer, any left over water will turn to ice crystals which will expand and destroy your seeds.

hon tsai tai

in addition to the cilantro i also saved some of these little hon tsai tai seeds. had to use a really small screen for them.  you can just leave the seeds in the freezer for a week or so till kill bugs and then put them in a cool dark spot, or you can leave the seeds in the freezer, i just don’t have enough room for that.  make sure to label and date them, it’s easy to forget what you have saved.


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