This year I experimented with seed saving for the first time. It all came about after we found out our local library was doing a seed exchange program. Similar to borrowing books, you check out packets of seeds from the library, grow them over the summer, save the seeds, keep some for yourself and return the rest for other residents to borrow next year. If you are unable to save the seeds, then you have to buy something similar to replace them. We borrowed a total of four packets of seed: Lettuce, Basil, Sunflowers and Parsley.
I have never actually saved seeds before (besides beans) and had little more than the general knowledge of this process. In all honestly, I probably would not have attempted this if my Mother hadn’t roped me into it. Although it is something I’ve thought a lot of about trying, I didn’t want to have to jump into the deep end. (And never would have chosen the Parsley from the Advanced drawer.) But, overall, it’s been fun, enlightening and (mostly) successful.
Today, I’m sharing a bit about the lettuce and basil. Next time I’ll discuss the others, as well as an old heirloom variety of beans we are saving.
The most interesting thing I learned was how long it takes. Normally, when lettuce bolts you think: “oh, it’s gone to seed” and pull it out. But it takes a lot longer for it to actually produce seed. Eventually you’ll see sweet yellow flowers that open in the sun. After they die off you should start to see white fuzzy tops, similar to dandelions. I was confused for quite a while because it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I actually saw any. Most of the flower pods ended up getting moldy and I worried they wouldn’t produce decent seeds. But it all worked out and I have plenty now. (This variety is Bronze Mignonette.)
I started the basil in a container and then transplanted most of them to the garden, where they really thrived, only just now starting to lose their flowers. The remainder I had left in the container on the porch died quicker and has given me more than enough seeds to return to the library and to plant next year. After basil blooms and the flower falls off, it starts producing the little seeds. I noticed each little pod thing holds about four seeds. They start off green and when they turn black you can harvest and save. (This variety is Cinnamon Basil.)
Do you save seeds?
PS: I want to do a little shout out that the seeds were donated to our library by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed.