Harvest time always hits me with such a panic. The boundless ambition and energy that embodied the Spring garden have left in their wake the inevitable results of such unbridled enthusiasm – an exhausted, overwhelmed, can’t-eat-another-bite ghost town garden. From mid-to-late summer, it’s a lawless place, overrun with weeds and regret and I-should-really-though-I-know-I’m-not-going-to-so-I’ll-just-feel-bad-about-it-alls. Getting the bounty out of the garden and through the door is hard enough with such sapped energy reserves; taking the time to save the seeds? Yeah, right.
Our first winter out here was spent with my nose in this book for a little while…or just long enough to realize that there was so much more to seed saving than just collecting the seeds and planting them the following year. It intimidated the hell out of me, quite frankly, so I chucked the book onto the tip-top of the bookshelf till I was better seasoned. The Seed Savers Exchange is a noble organization, I reassured myself, content to buy all of my seeds from them for awhile. But the price tag for putting in the garden this year was a shock. Medicinal herbs, annuals, native plants – they made for a hefty bill when added to the already-generous vegetable seed order. Still, that was rather offset by my sales of seedlings at the Farmer’s Market, so I put it out of my mind till a friend asked me to save some zinnias for seed when I came to clear-cut them for wool dyeing. Aha! So I bought some paper lunch bags, threw in some mature plant heads, hung them up, and left them for dead. They’re still there, in a growing chorus of similarly-abandoned plant material. I hope that one of these days, I’ll have nothing better to do than revisit them, separate all the dried plant material from the seeds, then pop them in a cute manilla coin-size envelope. (because I think they’re adorable, those envelopes, and I’ve been searching for an excuse to get some) If such an opportunity does not arrive before the Spring, well, then I guess I’ll play it by ear and maybe plant the seeds amidst all the other dried parts and call it mulch. And then? If they don’t come up exactly like their parents? Well, then I’ll write it down for next year.
I did get that book back out, though, to consult it for the tomato saving instructions. They involve squeezing out the seedy pulp, leaving it sit for a few days to get moldy, then washing away the moldy gunk, leaving only the viable seeds behind and successfully breaking through the seed coating. I got the idea to try it after Grandma snuck a couple of my heirloom tomatoes into her pocket to save for herself.
Speaking of Grandma, who’s faithfully served potatoes at every single meal since the beginning of time, (like any god-fearing woman should) I’d like to report my first-ever successful potato harvest. Delightful Yellow Finns commingle quite beautifully with All Blues, don’t you think? And since I make it a point to never peel my potatoes, those blue ones make the most magical purple whipped potatoes you’ve ever seen.
Joining the spuds in the larder this winter are these sweet potatoes. A fair-to-middling harvest, but good enough for me to write off as a success. Back to Grandma – she has a hot tip about covering the row with clear plastic to make it extra-toasty for these heat-seekers. I’ll be pestering her for that this winter when I’m hatching my garden plans. And back to “larder” – that’s a word I’m working to put in my everyday vocabulary. Imagine the change that would manifest in our pasty-white food culture if the concept of the larder became mainstream. Imagine!