Seed saving is a tradition and ritual that spans millions of years, it's as old as civilization.
For over 10,000 years, individual gardeners and farmers created and sustained our rich agricultural genetic heritage.
Our ability to grow food is the culmination of countless generations of sowing and harvesting seeds and those seeds are the continuation of an unbroken line from our ancestors to us and to our children and grandchildren. Our ancestors developed a relationship with plants that allowed their cultivation for food and medicine and this has been a central element of culture and human evolution and survival for millennia in regions throughout the world.
"We are on the verge of losing in one generation, much of the agricultural diversity it took humankind 10,000 years to create. As late as 1900, food for the planet's hungry was provided by as many as 1,500 different plants, each further represented by thousands of different cultivated varieties. Today over 90% of the world's nutrition is provided by 30 different plants and only four (wheat, rice, corn and soybeans) provide 75% of the calories consumed by man. Where once diverse strains strengthened each local ecosystem, currently, a handful of "green revolution", super-hybrid varieties are "mono-cropping" farms and gardens worldwide." - International Seed Saving Institute
Today, gardeners and farmers can continue to play an important role by learning to save their own seeds from varieties that perform best in their own mini-ecosystems. This will assure diversity in the same the way that diversity was promoted and protected instinctively throughout the history of agriculture.
I was initially intimidated in "the honor of seed saving". However, just like anything else, one you just go ahead and do it, it's a lot of fun and a very rewarding experience!
What to Harvest?
There are a few basic tips for success:
Start with the simple things; lettuce, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, many types of flower seeds. Some plants like squash and corn require special isolation practices because they cross-pollinate so easily. Others are biennials like carrots, parsnips and cabbage and won’t set seed the first year. These are best tackled when you have more experience. Many perennials once established set seed every year and are good candidates for seed saving.
**Be sure that the seeds you want to save do not come from hybrid seeds. Hybrids may have many desirable characteristics but they are not good for seed saving because they revert back to their parent stock in the second generation. This means you may get something interesting but it won’t be the same as the plant from which you are collecting. Save seeds only from open-pollinated seeds.**
Once you have decided which type of seeds you are going to collect, choose the healthiest plants from which to gather the seed. Select the plants based on the desirable characteristic which you want to preserve: Good flavor, size ,hardiness, early maturity, color, etc. Be sure to collect the seeds from more than one parent plant if possible. This ensures a broader genetic diversity for your seed collection.
Read seed savers exchange's blog post, for a better understanding of: "The difference between open-pollinated, heirloom, and hybrid seeds":
This is the easy part:
The only challenge here is to not leave the open seeds on the plant too long or you will find yourself with lettuce volunteering in every available space next year. This just takes a little practice and can best be mastered by regular visits to the seed plant to run your thumb against the seed heads. If the seeds are near the “point of departure “ it’s time to collect them. Another option is to remove seed heads once they are drying and let them finish drying in a partially shaded area.
For open seeds, a cookie sheet, paper bag, sack etc. will work fine. For many seeds you can simply collect a whole seed head and separate the seeds later. (Don’t neglect this separation step, because proper drying ensures seed viability.) Once the seeds are collected and separated spread them out in a cool dry place and let them complete their drying.
For seeds inside a fruit carefully cut the fruit open and squeeze out the seeds. If the seeds are basically dry like a pepper simply separate the seeds and allow them to air dry as above. For tomatoes and other ‘slimy’ seeds a special process to remove the gelatinous, sprout-inhibiting coating is necessary but very simple:
Put the seeds with pulp in a glass and add just enough water to get them floating. Set it on a windowsill for several days until a moldy scum starts to form. Remove the scum and any floating seeds, drain and rinse the seeds and spread out on a screen or glass or plastic plate for several days to dry. Don’t leave them for long after the scum forms or they will begin to sprout in the water!
After harvesting the seeds, we like to use a regular sack. We put the entire stem of the plant with flowers/seeds on them & hang them upside down in the sack. The seeds simply fall to the bottom for collection.
Seed Vitality - Viability
Generally speaking, with seeds big and fat is good! The larger and plumper a seed (relative to other seeds of its type), the greater the viability. When separating seeds with the wet method the seeds that float can be discarded as they will not be as strong as the seeds which sink. For seeds of peppers, eggplant, etc. which don’t require fermenting you can assess potential viability by placing in water for 24-36 hours and, as before, saving those that float, discarding those that don’t.
Storing your seeds...
Sore in a COOL and DRY space. Apart from the original quality of the seed you save this is probably the most critical factor in successful seed saving. Keeping your seeds dry and cool plays a major role in assuring their long term viability.
Thank you for reading & happy seeding!
My parents are 100% Ecuadorian. My father was born and raised in Alausi, Ecuador and my mother is from Southern Ecuador, Catamayo.
You might be familiar with Catamayo if you are familiar with Vilcababma (in the Valley of Longevity) there is a large and growing ex-pat community there.
Speaking of longevity, both sets of grandparents lived into their 100's. They told me the formula is low stress, clean food, moving your body and of course, love...
My parents bought the farm before they had any of us, about 45 years ago. They had in mind retiring there, or moving back to Ecuador sooner. Something always got in the way.
They did finally move back, in 2006 to retire.
Unfortunately, my dad became ill from 2008 forward, until he passed on in late October 2010. He was hard working, and I think one thing that kept him going was getting back to his country and his land. He always imagined us all returning and enjoying living there. He was always very proud of where he came from. He was an honorable man, with integrity and a love for simple things. He laughed, a lot and loud, always joking. He had many dear and old friends in Alausi. He contributed to his community in any way he could. He was, and is still very much loved there.
While sick in the hospital, he asked me to please keep the land
and do something with it. I said yes, of course...and here I am!
I basically took a PDC (permaculture design course), since I had heard so much about Permaculture being the answer to the many environmental and social issues of the modern world. I took the course and fell in love. I have always been a nature lover and once I discovered that our current farming practices of monocultures and GMO's (genetically modified organisms) are by far the most damaging to our environment than anything else we are doing, I knew this was the best use of the land. A teaching farm and demonstration site filled me with lots of ideas and excitement. My passion for permaculture was born.
This planet is paradise, custom made for human beings and all it's creatures, it's just that human's have forgotten. There is a disconnect, from the fact that we are mammals, we are nature! The further people get away from this knowing, the more harm we do to ourselves and the earth. As any animal would not destroy it's own environment.
My connection to nature is also my early memorable experiences in Ecuador. Both sets of grandparents, were connected to the land. My mother's parents were farmers, as well as my father's mother, was the care taker of my parents farm in their absence. My entire childhood was spent either on the farms or immersed in nature. I am very comfortable there, I suppose it's in my DNA, and if you think of it, it is in everyone's from our ancestry...
Human's may be "at the top of the food chain," so to speak, yet to me, having more intelligence and the ability to reason and talk makes me a steward. Responsible for all the creatures and the earth. Not a callus taker, consuming until there is little or nothing left for future generations? People argue, that the earth can replenish herself, yes she does, always coming back to balance, however that may mean people are out, since our species is not in equilibrium. I sometimes ask myself, this maybe the current evolutionary trajectory, and humans are meant to go? I also believe that the intelligence that created us makes no mistakes. Humans can have an enormous impact for good, we can actually help nature, work with her instead of against.
Everything I have ever fallen in love with in regards to earth stewardship, permaculture and what I feel I can do to make a difference is what I am committed to co-creating here...
"Permaculture, reforestation, sustainable education, health, shamanistic studies (ancestral wisdom), agritourism, voluntourism..."
The prophecy of the eagle & the condor is very fitting, as I am planning to host various experts from both North and South America, in a wide range of sustainable farming practices, with a focus on permaculture.
I am grateful to my parents for helping me re-discover my passion in sustainability and to be able to use this farm as an example for others looking to do the same.
Thank you for reading.