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Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) seedhead

It was about the time to make a new harvest of “Vild dansk” salsify, originating from Christiansø, a small island in the tiny archipelago Ertholmene in the baltic sea. It grows wild on the island, presumably bewildered from the small gardens around the naval fortress in times long past.

The seedhead looks like the dandelions miniature parachutes, ready to spread by the wind over a great distance. But I find it a bit slow to clean the pappus (parachute) from the seed. This year, inspired by SESAM, the swedish seed savers, I tried to cut off the pappus before the seeds matured. Indeed, it was an easy way to clean the seeds, for a private gardener that is.

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Salsify flowers open between 10 and 12 am.

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In the time between flowering and seed maturation it’s time to cut off the pappus. The pale yellow milk sap runs out and cover the injury. I cut quite low, where the shape goes from broad to narrow.

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The result is immediately clean seeds, to pick when the seed head opens, just in need of proper drying before they can be packed in paperbags.
A simple operation saving a good deal of work under garden conditions. I used a kitchen scissor, but a short beaked scissor would probably do a better job avoiding the neighbor stems when cutting.

This method could probably also be used for other members of the composite flowers, like lettuce and chicory. If it’s usefull with artichokes I don’t know, I ought consider it – they are slow to clean.
One thing to be aware of is the birds reactions. Do they see the cut seedhead as an invitation to eat all the seeds? With salsify the seeds were ready to harvest same day as the seedhead opened, hardly any time for birds to feed on them before I’m home from work to pick them all.

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Salsify between flowering and seedmaturity

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