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.

Salsify flowers open between 10 and 12 am.

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.

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.

Salsify between flowering and seedmaturity

Ljungdalen turnip Brassica rapa

Earlier posts on turnip

The turnips for seed are now in bloom. It is the swedish heirloom Ljungdalen. One selected turnip didn’t survive the winter, but 15 are blooming. Swedish seedsavers SESAM recommend minimum 5 plants and preferably 20 or more. Ideally I should have a few more plants in bloom, but its allright. If I make a bacth more, before the original seeds get too old, I can quickly have more than 20 plants in all in my genepool. Then I just have to remember mixing the two seed batches, and variety in the genepool is secured.
This variety have two distinct colors of the roots. As I weighted the number of each color according to what I had seen in my garden, to conserve the balance of the two colors, I at the same time ensured a certain plurality in the genes. I believe 15 will be a sufficient number in this case. But I would never go below the minimum of five plants, even if I had more distinct features to balance with.

Did I only have room for 5 plants, I would grow seeds every year, and then in a jar put 50 seeds every year. Over 10 years 500 seeds would have passed the jar and mixed up on the way. A jar of a well mixed genepool. For the first years I would grow out from the original batch, not starting to take seeds from the jar, until more than 20 plant are parenting the jar. Turnip seeds can be expected to last for 10 years.

Why a minimum of five plants?
Most Brassicas, including turnip, are self incompatible. They have a genetic barrier to ensure outbreeding. A single plant can’t pollinate itself or any other plant with the same version of the genetic barrier. Having let’s say two plants in bloom, there’s a high risk the both have the same version, and there will be produced no seeds on either plant. With three plants the risk is much smaller, but still significant. Only with five plants or more is the risk so small that we can ignore it.
In outbreeders we also want the genes to mix well in every generation. It allows a good adaptability in years to come, f.ex. different genes for disease resistance will all be secured for future generations if “the cards are shuffled”.

There’s a lot of tips and tricks to overcome seedsaving in small private gardens 🙂

Sarah and Andrew from Seeds Ambassadors have now written about their experiences in Romania. It is well written, have a look.


Eggplant Applegreen

Applegreen is an eggplant breed for northern climates by Professor Meader of New Hampshire and released in 1964

Eggplant for seed

I tried to save seeds from eggplant a few years ago. I even made a succesfull test of germination same autumn. But in spring there were no more germination. Oh-oh-oh – what an embarrasment, I had been sharing my seeds, and emails started to come in. All polite emails, but I myself was very disappointed and angry with myself. Now I find it more easy to forgive others who had accidents with the seeds they send me.

Cutting the very ripe eggplant

To do it better this time, I reserved the very first fruit for seeds, even wrote on it, to avoid any mistake at suppertime. Now I have been waiting for this fruit since mid july. Today I decided to cut it open, since it has been all yellow for very long time, and stopped shining for some time.

Scooping out the pulp and seeds Scooping out the pulp and seeds into a bowl

Seperating eggplant seeds from pulp Seperating eggplant seeds from pulp in water. Seeds sinks to the bottom whereas pulp float – a nice piece of low technology.

Washing eggplant seeds Washing eggplant seeds thoroughly prevents seedborne diseases.

Drying eggplant seeds Drying eggplant seeds on a plate. Now I just have to be patient and wait until they are completely dry before storing in an envelope.