One of the real delights for a beginning gardener is to save some seed because each time you fill a little packet with seed you get to shout, “I just saved four bucks!” It’s really pretty easy especially if you have a copy of Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners.
I just finished following her instructions for saving tomatillo seed. We had a bumper crop of tomatillos which I started under a grow light then transplanted into Wall’s O Water. By the middle of the season the plants had gotten so tall and leggy that I pounded rebar into the ground around them to hold them up. Even with that architectural reinforcement a couple of them collapsed breaking the main vine. Still, they produced the neat little green tomato covered in a papery husk. We turn the tomatillo into salsa verde, a truly delicious, all purpose condiment, meaning it’s good on anything from chips to mac and cheese.
I had trouble finding tomatillo seeds but now I will have enough to give away.
One saves the seed by dumping a selection of tomatillos into a blender or food processor, covering them with water and blending them to a liquid. Pour the mess out into a bowl and add water, then slowly pour it out. The weak seeds float out and away. The heavy seeds sink to the bottom. Pan for the seeds a few more times then pour them out into a strainer to get rid of the remaining liquid. Spread the seeds out on a plate to dry, then package them.
In August I Tom Sawyered my grandsons into helping me save seed. In that case it was kale. I’d pulled the plants which had heartily overwintered and dried them on a tarp in the garage. Lots of the pods burst open on their own and I collected those seeds on the tarp. For the rest, we sat up on the picnic table and pulled the pods apart with our finger nails and tried to let the seeds drop right into a seed packet.
The easy way to collect seeds, of course, is to let stuff bolt and go to seed in the garden and see what comes up the next year. Volunteers make gardening more fun. I like seeing a few surprise heads of lettuce in the corn patch, or cherry tomatoes amongst the beets.
Start practicing your seed saving. It’s a skill all gardeners need to learn.
After saving seeds, the next challenge is breeding plants which is high on my very strange bucketlist.