Have you ever grown a vegetable that was delicious on the palate, prolific on the plant, perfectly shaped and coloured, meaty and flawlessly textured … and you had no idea what its name was, nor could even remember where you bought it?
WHO HASN’T ?
Remember those juicy, fleshy tomatoes last year, or those incredibly crisp, huge green beans the year before? How’s about those peas as sweet as honey and meatier ‘n a porterhouse steak you grew back in the Summer of ’08? Remember them? Think you’ll ever see ’em again?
Damned right you won’t.
Sometimes progress is a pain in the ass. They (dont ask who ’cause I dont know), are always coming up with newer, better, improved varieties of plants for us. While I appreciate that, much like when Microsoft comes up with a much better, improved version of Windows. Sometimes I wanna keep the one I had … thanks anyway. But, like pleated shorts for men, we don’t always get a choice, so we gotta wait ’til next year.
Well, I can’t sew me a new pair of “not-ridiculous-looking” shorts for myself, but I can sow me some seeds from a variety of vegetable that I liked from this Summer.
Now, I’ve gathered seed, and grown plants from them. Mostly unusual wildflower or garden flower species mind you. Vegetables might be a different matter, (spoiler alert !) and that turns out to be true. We have about 200 cubic feet of composters stewing and brewing away in the Southside workshop area of our garden. Using the top of the big one as a platform, I grow tomatoes, beans, assorted herbs, and numerous other experimental vegetables in large pots. This serves multiple purposes. It utilizes less real estate, locates the vegs in the best sunlight conditions on our property, and keeps the comestibles beyond the reach of our rabbit population. Of course while harvesting, some fruit will fall into the composter below and be lost.
So then, as the following Summer progresses, the occasional tomato, dillweed, squash, or potato will wend its way out of the composters, or a planter full of pelargoniums, petunias, or begonias. I assumed the heat generated by the composters kept the seeds from freezing over the Winter. Which really kinda p!ssed me off when I thought about my dismal failure to successfully germinate heirloom tomato seeds a few years ago. I mean, I did everything right, and even better than just throwing them in a warm composter for the Winter. I chose the ripest, biggest, juiciest fruit from the earliest, biggest healthiest vine. I meticulously extracted the seeds, dried them carefully, and stored them in a cool dry environment ’til Spring when I planted them and got … not a damned thing for my trouble and effort. A month later? I’m watering baskets of pelargoniums and tomatoes (compliments of the ones that fell into the composter), which I had nothing to do with.
Well, this year we’ve enjoyed the finest cucumbers we’ve ever had (yeah, no idea the variety, no recollection of where we got them). So I gotta save those seeds. Apparently, saving “wet” seeds is a whole lot different than “dry”seeds. Dry seeds are just gathered and put away. Wet seeds are a completely different matter. Wet seeds ie) squash, tomato, peppers, melons … AND cucumbers, require special handling. ‘Course, if the vine was a hybrid, I wont get the cuke I want, if I get anything at all. But, I’ll never know if I don’t try.
If you look closely at a cuke or tomato seed, you’ll see a slimey outer layer. For reasons known only to GOD, this slimey coating inhibits seed germination. I figured that slimey coating was GODs way of getting back at me for my teenage years. That coating is why I couldn’t get my tomato seeds to grow. I just dried the seeds with that on them. I didn’t know. The way to get rid of that coating is by fermentation, which is pretty-much why GOD has a problem with my teenage years … fermented things.
To preserve the seeds, the fruit must be left on the vine until it rots (ferments), &/or the seeds must be extracted along with the surrounding goo and made to ferment in a bowl of water. Once the water has fizzed for a coupla days (or grown a white mold on the surface – charming) you add more water. The viable seeds sink to the bottom while the no goods float. Then, the seeds need be washed and dried off. They’re reputed to be good for a year, best stored in a fridge.
Well, I can vouch for the effectiveness of the fermentation idea. After a few days I saw the foaming action, and a day later, most all the goo and gelatinous coating had melted away and the bowl was full of just water and seed. Unfortunately, I fear I may have been enjoying a hybrid cuke. The seeds were flat and quite empty. So, I guess I’ll just leave the last cuke on the vine ’til the frost, to let it ferment naturally. Hopefully, the seed I fermented early were too young to have developed sufficiently, and I’ll get viable seed from that last natural cuke.
If it works, Ill publish an update next Spring. If it doesn’t, I’ll go to church and tell GOD he won … this time.