We have been sorting out seeds, many of them bundled into paper bags in the autumn and stuffed in the shed, lost and forgotten… almost. Since they were allowed to ripen on the plants, the neglect has not been too damaging, and it has been a matter of sifting and rubbing and sieving and the like. What has been most remarkable is the miniature world of seeds, they are really rather beautiful and/or weird. Kay has been doing some close-up photos.
Saving our own seed means that we can spread these fabulous plants around, one way will be to use them like ground cover so scatter seed and then chop the plants back as a mulch before they go to seed again.
Dried seeds on stalks can be quite tough to remove, but we have invested in some metal mesh squares and put them into wooden frames to make super sieves. Rubbing the stalks on the mesh can release the seed quite readily. Removing the remaining chaff (the protective scaly parts) from the seed is more of a challenge, but something that is fun to do, and it gets easier the more you try. In the Vervain seed picture you can see the many seed casings as well as the seeds, and if the mix is poured slowly downwards into a basin with a little wind blowing (think hairdryer) then the lighter chaff parts should separate out.
This year’s seed has proved bountiful and we were able to give away marshmallow seeds at the Oxford Real Farming Conference. With other herb growers we are going to be looking at even more ways to save seed and exchange them.