Its been a little while since my last post. As everyone knows, this is a very busy time of year. School starts for the kids and the harvest really starts to pick up, which brings with it preservation season. Canning, drying, freezing… jams, tomatoes, pickles, sauerkraut, beans, corn, peppers.. I could go on and on.. and if you’ve read this blog before, you know that I usually do. But time is short and there is a lot of work to be done. One bit of chores I haven’t mentioned, which is also the topic of this post, is seed saving. Seed saving is a skill that is increasingly more important in this hybrid world of genetically modified food and mega-mart grocery stores. And for most of your basic crops, its a relatively simple thing to do!

My seed saving adventure began back in the late summer of 2012. My family and I were at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland. (which, by the way, is an awesome place. Here’s a link to their website, check it out!) The nature center has a fantastic 1800’s style homestead which features a rather nice heirloom garden. While we were there looking around I struck up a conversation with the volunteer that manages the garden. One thing led to another and the next thing I know he was pulling some dried bean pods down from a pole and handing them to me. It was just a small handful of seeds but he assured me they would grow just fine and produce quite a supply of beans for myself and my family. The two varieties I was given were the Cherokee Trail of Tears black bean and the Bountiful Bush green bean, both dating back to the 1800’s.. we grew both of these varieties here at Small House this year!

Now I was ready to try collecting my own seeds. As luck would have it, we also had some beans growing in our plot at the local community garden. Blue Lake bush beans. We stopped picking a small patch of those to let them fatten up and dry out. It was easy to do considering how many beans we had already picked and eaten that year! The community garden closed down for the year and we had to have our beds all cleaned out before the beans had come close to being ready, so I pulled them up by the roots and took them home with me. I hung them upside down in a cool, dry area of our basement and set up a fan nearby to help with the air flow.. a few weeks later they were dry and brittle. We held on to the seeds I collected until we planted them in June of this year and they did great! We ate green beans all summer (with almost every meal) and saved plenty more seeds for next year. I bet we even have enough seed to share…

One of the beans we are growing out to seed for Baker Creek
Since then, I’ve tried my hand at saving seeds from a variety of other veggies. Peas are easily harvested just like beans. And peppers just need to be left on the plant until they are plenty ripe, then harvest the seeds, lay them out on a paper plate to dry and eat the pepper!. Other plants require a little more effort though. Some, like swiss chard, are a biennial which means they need to grow for two season before they produce seed.

Lately, I’ve really been enjoying saving seeds from tomatoes. It seems everyone I know has a unique variety growing, from dark purple fruits, to orange and yellow striped fruits.. and everyone is always happy to share one of these tasty treats. Tomato seed saving is a little different process from other seeds I’ve worked with. To get a good crop of seed you first need to scrape the seeds, and the jelly like sack they come in, into a glass and add a bit of water to them. Let them sit on the windowsill for a few days until they ferment and a white filmy muck appears on the top of the water. Yummy! Scrape off the muck, add more water and stir. The tomato “jelly” stuff and all of the bad seeds will float to the top and the good seeds will sink to the bottom of the glass! Then just strain them out and dry them on a paper plate.

Whatever kind of seed you decide to try and save, you can find a quick tutorial on the internet. Just be sure to label and store your seeds properly for next year. Even if you save something as simple as your green beans, give seed saving a try… it may only save you a couple dollars when it comes time to buy seeds next year, but there’s something very rewarding about saving seeds from one season to plant for the next. Besides, its like a bonus harvest and that’s just fun!