Seed saving is a time-honored way of keeping certain plant traits growing. It used to be a common practice among gardeners.
This year we have decided to keep seed from some of our vegetables. The challenge is to prevent similar plants from cross-pollinating. I find it amazing, the plants that will cross with each other. A few years ago my sister was cutting up a pumpkin she grew herself, and she found its fragrance a bit off. It wasn’t until my brother-in-law mentioned it smelled like cucumbers that she realized the pumpkins had cross-pollinated with her cucumbers.
Our broccoli raab, Chinese cabbage and bok choi all went to seed at about the same time. They are all also part of the brassica family. The seed they produce will probably grow into interesting vegetables, but not many will look like their parent plants. I don’t plan to save these seeds.
We did have some broccoli raab go to seed in another location of the garden a bit earlier than everything else. So these seeds may be worth saving. They now have grown in the Yukon for two seasons and will be better adapted to our climate than anything from down south.
Seed saving does take some time and effort while the plant is still growing. It may even mean marking which plants to save seed from, and making sure the seedpods don’t burst onto the grown losing the seeds.
Life as a market gardener sometimes is so focused on what we have to harvest and get ready for market we don’t notice much else. But this past week when our friend, Kim, dropped by to help us harvest, we were able to look around a bit.
While we were out in the garden deciding where to start, I noticed a bright pink bloom growing in the parsnips. Now parsnips are like most root crops, they flower on their second season. This is why they store up energy in their roots. But picking the root breaks this process; so in order to have seed from a parsnip it needs to be left in place for two seasons. In the North, these roots also need to be insulated so they don’t freeze.
The flower in this year’s parsnip patch was unusual. I knew it wasn’t a parsnip because this pink flower had a trumpet look to it instead of the white umbel-type flowers of a parsnip. The flower looked more like something that belonged in a flowerbed. I had gotten this parsnip seed from my mom, who has let them flower and produce seeds for years. I just didn’t know if she grew this type of flower as well.
After a phone conversation, I discovered not only had my mother grown these flowers but had accidentally sent some seed north. I wonder if it will produce seed this year, too?