A permaculture farm aims to be as self sufficient and resilient as possible. A corner stone of self sufficiency is seed saving. Growing non-hybrid, open pollinated seeds also makes you more resilient, as the seeds adjust to the changing climate every year.
It has been a few years now, that we have rarely bought seeds for our vegetables and crops. We have been diligently saving seeds to sow back in the following season. With cereals, pulses, legumes, oilseeds it is simple, because the seed is the crop. But for vegetables, we have to keep aside some plants, to over-ripen and produce seeds.
Winter vegetables like radish, carrots, turnip, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, fenugreek, brassica, are simply left in the beds to over grow and fruit. This does mean that we have to leave those beds undisturbed till April end, when the weather turns warm and the fruits on these plants dries up. We then cut the entire plant, and let it to dry even more in a corner. Finally, we beat the dried plants with a stick to thresh out the seeds.
Summer vegetables are mostly squashes like bottle gourd, cucumber, bitter gourd, snake gourd, melons , pumpkin and apple gourd. Usually, we simply leave a few fruits on the wines to over ripen and dry out. Most of the times, we simply forget to pick them from the wine because they went unnoticed!
Other vegetables like brinjal and tomato have a slightly more complex process of seed saving. This is because the seeds have a gelatinous covering on it, which has to be removed before drying the seed, If you do not do that, the seeds tend to catch fungus and lose their vitality. The process we follow for saving and brinjal seeds is as follows:
Pick the over ripe/ almost rotting fruit from the plant.
Remove the flesh and seeds from the middle of the fruit, and collect it in a bowl. Discard the skin.
Add some water to these flesh, and mix it thoroughly with hands
Allow this mixture to stand for 48 hours
A layer of fungus would have appeared on the surface of this mixture. Remove that, decant the water, and clean seed will be seen at the bottom of the bowl.
Rinse these seeds in clean water a couple of times. Strain them in a strainer. Put them on a paper towel to dry out In the sun.
You will know they have dried completely, when they separate out from each other, as you run your fingers through them.
Pack them in airtight ziplock bags, and sow them the following season.
For pulses, cereals, legumes, oil seeds and other spices like fennel, ajwain, dill, we simply keep aside a part of the harvest to sow the following year. To prevent these seeds from getting spoiled, it is important to dry them out completely in the sun before storing them in a water tight container or sealed plastic bag. For added protection, we sometimes add layers of neem leaves, or mix in some cow dung ash to keep away insects and fungus.
We have so many native trees, avenue trees and medicinal trees growing at Aanandaa. Still haven’t got down to saving their seed and propagating them. Maybe we will start doing that next year!
Meanwhile, we have far more vegetable seeds this year, than we require for ourselves. So we are making them available on our website for you to buy and sow in your kitchen gardens. We are confident that they will do well in climates similar to the North India (extreme weather: ranging from 5C to 45C). Let us know your feedback!