Monday, March 10, 2008

Seed saving...

As we are leafing through the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) Yearbook we are feeling some seed envy.

The book is 500 or so pages long, no pictures, just page after page of variety listings and the mysterious code that tells who has the seeds avilbale. OH WA H - Has - means that someone in Ohio with a last name strating in WA and a first name in H has the seed avilable for anyone (who is a member of SSE).

Seeing L.Q. on the end means that they have it in limited quanity and to get it you have to be a listed member (meaning you are offer seeds to others, which we are not this year) and M.R. means you have to promise to offer the seeds the next year (or in two years if it is bianneil.)

Anyway, the book is amazing to go through. Descriptions of item after item, antique apples, heirloom veggies of every description, and wondourous potatoes. More then once I gasped and yelled to my hubby "They have _____!" Fill in the blank. (I admit to being a seed nerd!)

But here is the the catch. None of the items are offered in commercial quanities. Of course not, the goal is to trade seeds for the purpose of seed saving, but that means I will need to save seeds. To be honest, my intrest in seed saving is not in the "easy" varities. The book has over 100 pages of tomatoes listed. I joked to my husband "I think the genetic diversity of our tomatoes are safe!" And honestly they appear to be.

No the things that intrest me are root crops. Turnips and beets and the like. To save the seeds we need to grow them year 1 and then in the fall dig up the roots, save the best of the roots all winter at 40 degrees and controled humidity and then in the spring replant it, at which point it will go to seed. All of this needs to be isolated by 1/2 to 1 mile from the closest adjacent variety of the same family. That is a lot more involved then the humble tomatoe or pepper.

So in 2008 we will save only a couple varieties for seed. The first will be rat tailed radishes, which I LOVE, and are avilable fewer places then they were just a few years ago. The second... I don't know, still decideing, maybe Gilfeather Turnips, an Ark of Taste variety.

But for now, until we have more time at the farm for fussy activities like seed saving, we will have to be satisfied (and so will our members) with varieties which are commercially avilable in large enough quantities, because the when you get something from SSE's yearbook you only get a few (20-30) seeds, which is not enough when you are talking turnips which we typically order in ounce multiples.


Blackswamp_Girl said...

Interesting. I always wondered how we would save beets here. I wonder if I could bring myself to do that... or if the temptation of eating the delicious beets would prove too much? :)

CSA Farmer Girl said...

Delayed gratification is one of the skills you learn farming. But I agree. Yummy beets in the cellar waiting to be eaten. I will only be able to resist (I am sure) if the seeds are just not avilable... Although, I'll always have to eat a few, just to taste test, you understand.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

But of course! You have to make sure that the seeds are worth saving, after all, or if you should experiment with some other open pollinated variety instead. ;)

Delayed gratification is one of the skills you learn gardening overall, I think. It's probably just a little more keen of a learning process when you're dealing with feeding your physical body with edibles as well.