In the July Guide there was a section
devoted to saving your own seed, and we promised that in a later issue we
would tell you how to harvest it. The only "safe" vegetables for seed saving
by the amateur are peas, beans, onions, leeks, tomatoes, lettuce, ridge
cucumbers and marrows, so this note will be restricted to them.
only a pound or two of seed is being saved, leave the pods until nearly dry.
The seed at this stage should be firm and touch; pressure
the finger nail should not easily cut the skin but only dent it.
To finish the drying, pick off the pods and spread them in a thin
layer in a dry, airy place. When the seeds are quite hard, shell them from
the pods and store in cotton or paper bags.
If your space is limited, the seeds may be shelled from the pods as
soon as they are taken from the plant, and dried by spreading them in a thin
layer on a tray. Move them each day so that they are all exposed to the air
ONIONS & LEEKS
Onion seed is usually fit to
harvest by September, leeks in October. The seed should be black and doughy,
not watery, before harvesting. If the stem below the head turns yellow, or
some of the capsules burst open, the head is then certainly safe to cut. Cut
off the heads with 12 in. or more of stem attached, and lay them in a sunny,
airy place to dry. Place the onion heads in a bog since the dry seeds easily
Leeks take a long time to dry and the capsules remain tough. The easiest way
to deal with very small quantities of leeks is to rub the heads on a fine
sieve. If the threshed seeds and chaff are placed in water, the good seeds
will sink and the chaff and poor seeds will float. Do not let the seeds
remain more than a few minutes in water; dry them immediately by spreading
in a thin layer on a dish in an airy place.
At least 10 lb. of tomatoes are required to produce 1 oz. of
seed. Remove from the fruit the pulp containing the seeds and put it in a
jar to ferment. After two or three days, tip it into a fine sieve and wash
it vigorously under the tap; the pulp will wash away from the seeds, which
may then be spread on muslin to dry.
Keep close watch
for the moment when the seed heads are ripe, since loss of seed results from
shattering and from the ravages of birds. Inspect the plants at frequent
intervals and pluck off any heads that show a "downy" formation. This
usually appears within about a fortnight of flowering. Finish drying the
heads on a tray under cover.