By Liesl Clark
Some plants are just made for it — Seed saving that is. I usually get around to it because I’ve let my veggies flower and go to seed because we want our honey bees to get the most out of the flowers. Gardening takes on a new dimension when you have bees nearby to tend. And in our gardens, all domestic critters accompany us, to inadvertently thwart the planting and harvesting process because of their playful nature.
The rat-tail radish (Raphanus caudatus) is a shoe-in for seed-saving. Its “radish” isn’t a bulb or tuber underground but a green crisp seedpod that forms after the flowers have gone. Perfect for the bees and perfect for my family that loves the crispy long green radishes to munch with lunches or in salads. Too bad the other domestics won’t eat them.
To save rat-tail radish seeds, let the pods dry out on the plant. Then pick the plant and hang it up to dry further or place it in the sun on a tarp. I pick the pods off the plants when they’re mature and place them on a Nepali “nanglo,” a woven reed or bamboo tray used for separating rocks, dust and chaff from rice, grains, and legumes. It serves as a plastic-free drying tray for all sorts of vegetable garden-fare in summer.
Let the precious pods dry out completely and then remove the tiny brown seeds from the pods. When my parents came to visit us last month, we sat around the kitchen table and shared stories while removing seeds from our pods. It was blissful simple farm work for our hands while minds connected and words intertwined.
Seeds will be stored in home-made seed envelopes made from scrap paper and put into the ground next spring!
What favorite seeds do you save and do you have any special techniques to share?