20 April, 2018

Mea Culpa!

I started writing my blog in January 2007 and slacked off every year since.The first year, I was doing posts at a ferocious pace. Each year after there were fewer posts. By the time we get to 2017, my contributions were almost non-existent. My record became appallingly sparse.  

Writing a blog takes place in a vacuum. I admit I had a billion doubts that anyone was even reading the blog and more doubts that it was doing any good - there are, after all, more blogs about gardening than almost any other subject this side of sex. 

I gotta bring home the dog food! 
My very best dog, Mr Tre,
oversees my work and doesn't push me too
hard, except when it's time for his walk.
A friend challenged me to get back into the blog, put up new material and reinvigorate the pages with a new look and use the blog to get my writing back on schedule. I took the challenge.

So these last few months I published more articles, and I did some blog upgrading "under the hood" and above.  One thing that really impacted me, I realized in the past few years I had not been checking my blog inbox. I opened it for the first time in over three years and I was blown away with the number of "attaboys" I was getting and the sincere acknowledgements of the blog's usefulness that was there waiting for me to just open it up.

So. First off, thank you very much. You are very kind! 

Secondly, I apologise to the many people I failed to get back to in a timely fashion. 

And thirdly, I will try harder to win your praise and your readership by applying myself more regularly and more thoughtfully to this blog. I have lots of ideas to cover and I need to look back over all the communications from those readers who have had questions and address them in coming posts.

I want let you know, that currently the book almost halfway proofed in an ongoing effort to get it published. Posts on this blog are no longer actual parts of the book, but are extrapolated from the book and will be for the foreseeable future. I am never at loss for content, but I am constantly at loss for time.

Once again. Thank you! I shall endeavor to serve you with the information you need and desire to grow food in our Southern California Mediterranean Climate! 

david

03 April, 2018

Hard Seed Saving

Whenever there is a seed saving class, you see seeds divided into easy, moderately hard and hard - or some variation of that.  Easy seeds are defined with the least amount of brain power and the least effort - presumably 'hard' is the opposite of that.

That aint necessarily so.

Oftentimes the difference between easy and hard is simply the willingness to observe what's happening in your garden and use that knowledge to your advantage.  In small scale seed saving, there is a minimum of tools required (which I feel is a flaw, being an avid tool collector myself) and the techniques are fairly straight forward.  Corn is not, of itself that hard to save.  But our location, throughout Los Angeles makes it hard to save; someone somewhere has corn flowering the same time yours is!  The only way to save it without doubt is to pollinate it by hand.  I intend to cover that in the near future, so stay tuned!

Corn is wind pollinated - and so it pollinates nothing if no wind blows the pollen (from the boy flowers - the tassels) to the silks (aka the girl flowers) of other corn plants. The descendents of the European invaders are very uptight about keeping plants "pure."  That's what makes corn maddening to us.  It's hard to get that wind to blow only where you want it! 

There are ways to control corn pollen and get plants pollinated with only the genes you want.  This article is not about that.

The peoples who took corn from a sad little grass plant into the culinary powerhouse it s today, had a very different view of plants and plant breeding.  Isolating a given set of genetics was the European design, but the breeders of corn took a different approach from ancient times to present day, they allowed the corn to freely cross - and they saved corn from all ears, not just the big ones.  The result is that there are hundreds of different corn varieties available for a huge  variety of different ways to cook and eat it! 


Corn unshelled on the right, bowl of Red Bread seed center and the
empty cobs, already shelled on the left.
I was gifted with some ears of Mohawk Red Bread Corn from Rowan White a few years back.  I grew it out, got a nice harvest and hung onto the seed, stored it somewhat indifferently until last month when I was asked if I had any corn for a ceremony and I offered up the Mohawk Red Bread. 

It was making a whole circle in may ways.  The corn was now going back to Mohawk country to help Eliot Cowan, author of "Plant Spirit Medicine"do a ceremony. The woman who asked for the corn seed had met Eliot through his book, which was stocked in that book store because I asked for them to stock it as it was supplementary reading for my Botany class.  Now the lot of us had come together for a ceremony that brought this wonderful corn out of California back to upper New York state.

Pulling the corn seeds out of storage was a mystical experience.  The seed was no longer fresh, so my instructions were to plant more seeds than he needed just to ensure a good stand of seed.

I didn't have time to give these seeds a "germ test" (see my other article, Are Those Seeds Any Good, Mister? for some back ground on this). 

I brought out my corn sheller and tried my best to NOT just take the good looking kernels from good looking cobs.  I tried to emulate the corn growers and I tried to shut my internal neediness for a stab at perfection.  


A corn sheller.  This one is sized for popcorn, but it
was the right size for my Red Bread Corn too!
These seeds were put into a quart glass canning jar to sit in the freezer for three days.  At that time, they'll be reintroduced to the ambient temperature and I will get a germ test done.  Here's hoping I didn't give Eliot bad seeds!  

david

19 March, 2018

Are Those Seeds Any Good, Mister?

I was given a big bag of fava bean seed as the Seed Library of Los Angeles was clearing out some old seeds lately. The bag was labeled "Fava Beans, 2010"  I'm thinking "What is the longevity of fava beans anyway?" Most seeds figure to be close to dust over seven years (tomatoes being the common exception), but every so often, something was saved right and conditions all along favored longer life and the seeds will still sprout. I had no idea about fava bean seed, although, larger seeds seem to take longer to die than itty bitty ones (tomatoes definitely are the outliers!).  

Some quick research, I found a UC Davis article that said "When stored under favorable conditions, most bean seeds have a life expectancy of 3 years."  

It's hard to see, but this bag of fave bean seed is labeled 2010. 
Good? Bad?
What to do?  


Gosh. At 8 years, 2010 to 2018 seems like a long shot! But here's a whole bag of the stuff, I would really hate to throw it away. I don't know any magic, but sometimes a 'germination test' feels like magic. 

What Is a Germ Test And How Do You Do It?

Most seed savers abbreviate 'germination' into the monosyllable 'germ' and so you hear us talking about 'germ tests' not germination tests. Too much work to say all that!  

You will need a soft cloth or a paper towel. A water proof container - most folks use plastic zip lock bags. For this one, I used a bag that a loaf of bread came in and when I'm done, I'll wash it and use it again! 

Lastly, of course, you'll need some seeds and some water.

Fava bean seeds are big and bulky. They are not the most convenient species to take a germ test. First time out, you might want to do corn, peas, regular beans - something substantial but not as bulky as a fava bean.  

The number of seeds you will use for a germ test will depend on how many seeds you have and how much mental energy you want to spend. Educators usually talk in terms of 100 seeds. The beauty of this is that when you're done, simple count up the number that sprouted and you have the real percentage of viable seeds. And that works if you dealing in farm size quantities, but if you have only 100 seeds to start with, you'll be using the germ test seeds to plant! It takes a good deal of patience to plant already sprouted seeds.  

The actual appearance of my finished germ test.
Five beans per row, four rows - 20 seeds total.

So here we are.  I only used four rows of five beans and even that was hard to keep in the paper towel roll!  That's twenty seeds, so to get my percentage, I count my sprouted bean seeds and multiply by five and that will be the percentage out of 100.  It's hard to see in this photo, but there are 12 sprouted seeds (and by the way, this test was only for five days, if I really wanted to push things, I could have easily kept the seeds in the roll for up to 10 days, getting an even higher percentage, but I was in a hurry for many reasons).  Twelve sprouted seeds times five is 60%, because, if you're math challenged like I am, it takes five times twenty to make 100 and that's how we find the percent.  

Now 60% germination will not win any real award, in fact it is illegal to sell seed with 60% germination.  But in this case, to use these beans up, I would plant 2 seeds for every plant I want.  If I was wanting to have a fava in every spot where I planted them, I might sow two seeds per spot and then put a couple seeds into 4" containers to fill in any hole that ended up empty.

So, yes ma'am. These are good seeds enough for home use. They'll spend the summer in a cool, dark and dry place (in the plastic bag in my fridge with the door closed almost all the time) and I'll plant them out this fall. Or, you might find some of them with the Seed Library Of Los Angeles where you'll get double the amount to make up for the low germination.  

Soon, I'll be showing off my black garbanzo beans I'm SO excited about.  Do stay tuned!

david


15 March, 2018

Food Plants From the Ark of Taste We Can Grow In Southern California



In our Mediterranean climate, we can grow a lot of different food plants – in fact, almost all of them. The only time we find difficulty in growing plants that thrive elsewhere is with the perennials and fruit trees.


The Ark of Taste is a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. By identifying and championing these foods we keep them in production and on our plates.

Since 1996, more than 2,500 products from over 50 countries have been added to the International Ark of Taste. Over 200 of these foods are from the USA, and we are always seeking more edible treasures to include.

The Ark of Taste is a tool for farmers, ranchers, fishers, chefs, grocers, seed libraries, educators and consumers to seek out and celebrate our country's diverse biological, cultural and culinary heritage.


More information about discovering, nominating, tasting and championing Ark of Taste varieties can be found at: https://www.slowfoodusa.org/ark-of-taste-in-the-usa

 Here are a list of many of the Ark of Taste plants we can grow in our SoCal gardens:

Algonquian Squash (Cucurbita pepo)
Amish Paste Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum) – this is one of my favorites too.
Amish Pie Squash (Cucurbita maxima)
Arikara Yellow Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry (Physalis pruinosa)
Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Beaver Dam Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
Bodega Red Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
Bolita Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Boston Marrow Squash (Cucurbita maxima)
Bradford Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus v. Bradford 1)
Brown and White Tepary Bean (Phaseolus acutifolius) 
Burbank Tomato (I know it as “Burbank Slicing Tomato) (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Canada Crookneck Squash (Cucurbita moschata
Candy Roaster Squash (Cucurbita maxima)
Chalk’s Early Jewel Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Chapalote Corn (Zea mays)
Cherokee Purple Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Chiltepin Pepper (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum)
Christmas Lima Bean (Phaseolus lunatus)
Crane Melon (Cucumis melo)
Datil Pepper (Capsicum chinense)
Djena Lee’s Golden Girl Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet (Beta vulgaris)
Early Rose Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
Fish Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
Four Corners Gold Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Garnet Chili Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
German Pink Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Gilfeather Turnip (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa)
Green Mountain Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
Hanson Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Hayman Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas v. Hayman)
Hidatsa Red Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Hidatsa Shield Figure Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Hinkelhatz Hot Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
Hopi Mottled Lima Beans (Phaseolus lunatus)
Hussli Tomato Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
I'Itoi Onion (Allium cepa var. aggregatum)
Inchelium Red Garlic (Allium sativum)
Inciardi Paste Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Ivan Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Ivis White Cream Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)
Jacob’s Cattle Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Jimmy Nardello’s Sweet Italian Frying pepper (Capiscum annuum)
Jimmy Red Corn (Zea mays indentata)
Kentucky Limestone Bibb Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
King Philip Corn (Zea mays)
Kleckley Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)
Landrace Red Creole Onion (Allium cepa)
Lina Cisco’s Bird Egg Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Livingston’s Globe Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Livingston’s Golden Queen Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata)
Makah Ozette Potato (Solanum tuberosum subsp. andigena)
Marrowfat Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Martin's Carrot Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
Mayflower Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Mississippi Silver Hull Bean-Crowder Cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata)
Moon & Stars Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)
Nancy Hall Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)
New Mexican Native Chile Pepper (Capiscum annuum)
New Mexico Native Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica)
O'odham Pink Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Orange Oxheart Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Pantin Mamey Sapote (Pouteria sapota)
Purple Straw Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Red McClure Potato  (Solanum tuberosum)
Rio Zape Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Rockwell Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Roy’s Calais Flint Corn (Zea mays)
Santa Maria Pinquitos Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Sea Island White Flint Corn (Zea mays)
Seashore Black Rye (Secale cereale)
Seminole Pumpkin (chassa howitska) (Cucurbita moschata)
Seven Top Turnip (Brassica rapa)
Sheboygan Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Sheepnose Pimiento (Capiscum annuum)
Sibley Squash (Cucurbita maxima)
Spanish Roja Garlic (Allium sativum)
Speckled Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Stowell's Evergreen Sweet Corn (Zea mays)
Sudduth Strain Brandywine Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Hubbard Squash (Cucurbita maxima)
Tennis Ball Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Thelma Sanders Squash (Cucurbita pepo)
True Red Cranberry Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Turkey Craw Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Turkey Hard Red Winter Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Tuscarora White Corn (Zea mays)
Valencia Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Wenk’s Yellow Hot Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
White African Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor)
White Cap Flint Corn (Zea mays)
White Sonora Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
White Velvet Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)
Yellow Cabbage Collard (Brassica oleracea)
Yellow-Meated Watermelon (Citrillus lanatus)

The beans, lettuces, peppers, tomatoes and wheats are very easy for saving seeds
The many okras, sorghums and squashes are a little harder but totally do-able.
Watermelons are hard to grow here, but if you can get it to grow, the good news is that no one will have a watermelon to cross pollinate your watermelon.

Seed Saving Resources

Because it's easier to find URLs online rather than typing them in, for my Intermediate Seed Saving Class for the City of Santa Monica on March 17th, I gave everyone THIS URL wherein to list the OTHER URLs.  

Seed Saving Resources on the Web: 

First, a word of caution:  ALL of these sites are written for climates that differ remarkably from our own.  We are a Mediterranean Climate, which means our climate resembles Rome and Athens much more than it does the rest of the United States. Refer to local seed savers when discussing time of year when to plant and harvest as it is not at all the same as these sites would have you believe.  Remember that as you glean all the other goodness these people have to say about seed saving. Also, this blog has a good deal of seasonal information that will prove helpful.  

https://seedalliance.org/all-publications/ This is the link directly to their publications page, but the whole site is worth exploring.  The number one book I use is from them.  Before you become too enamored with all they offer, on the left hand side, check "How To Guide" and then "Seed Saving" and you'll be able to download this 37 page guide. With this and a few add ons, you'll be set to start saving seeds. Once you've done that, go back and see what all they offer!

https://www.seedsavers.org/search  I have been a member of Seed Savers Exchange for almost 20 years. Of all the seed saving organizations in the US, this the oldest and the most venerated.  Clicking into "Search" you'll find some resources.  And get a membership while you're there.  We support Seed Savers Exchange. Our Crop-Specific Seed Saving Guide came from here.  

https://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/IsolationDistancesVer_1pt5.pdf  
This is a go to "Isolation Distances" guide.  It's written for Mid-Atlantic and Southern US, but a mile here is a mile there and I use this as a starting point for the discussion. 

http://www.savingourseeds.org/publications.html  The above publication helped me find this site - lots of good information to love and treasure here.  

https://slola.blogspot.com/  For some local seed saving news, this is the blog I maintain for the Seed Library of Los Angeles  - also, check out SlOLA.org - we are updating the web site now (ever so slowly - we are all volunteers with real lives outside of our seed-saving) and soon should have a genuine excellent resource guide that will honestly get you hooked on seed saving and knowing how to do it!

In addition, for other info:  Open Source Seed Initiative 


Other Resources, Books: 

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History,Weaver, William Woys ©1997, Henry Holt It is now out of print and getting a copy can be hellish (NEWSFLASH: IT IS BACK IN PRINT!!!) It is a wonderful book that needs to be put back in print because the research he put into the book makes this to be the most informative books on heirloom vegetables that has ever been published. Mother Earth News has the entire book on a CD – you can find it on their website – of course that's not a book, but you will have the data.

A Seed Saving Guide for Gardeners and Farmers, Organic Seed Alliance © 2010 OSA This publication is a free download from organicseedalliance.org. It is a succinct guide with few frills but a great deal of good data. A free publication that is worth paying for! Organic Seed Alliance is a non-profit relying on contributions to fight the invasion of hybrids and GMO seeds in our lives. I suggest throwing a donation their way as they deserve it.

Breed Your Won Vegetable Varieties, Deppe, Carol © 2000, Chelsea Green Publishing The subtitle gets more to our point: The Gardeners' and Farmers Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving, I had bought this book about three years ago and, for whatever reason, I ignored it. In preparing to teach seed saving one more time,, the subtitle pulled me in: Suddenly, it was a different book. She is very, very funny and her stories of seed saving are heart warming; I felt I had met a kindred spirit – I want to drive to Oregon and 'shoot the compost' about seeds over a brew or tea or whatever she's having. 

david




14 March, 2018

The First Offering of Urban Food Production, The Spring Edition




Three Winter veggies from the Fall class of Urban Food Production. In Spring we'll
be planting veggies for the hotter months including peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash -
to just name but a few!!!  Sign up now!

Starting April 8th at The Learning Garden, the first offering of the Spring course of "Urban Food Production" a long running Fall class will be offered at The Learning Garden. Teaching this in Spring has been a dream of mine from the beginning because we will be growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squashes and cucumbers - and so many more of your favs. Spaces are still available - sign up!! Course title (below) is the link to UCLA Extension.  Students get to harvest from their gardens throughout the summer (if they maintain them!).  

The syllabus doesn't say, it but we eat at every class!  Eating is an agricultural act!  So we have meals that reflect on seasonality in addition to being healthy, organic and delicious.  It's all part of the syllabus.

Questions?  Give me a shout!

david


I've taught gardening and horticulture for over 30 years,
which I hate to say because everyone thinks I'm an old fellow.
I'm still having a good time and I love teaching growing food to people.



BIOLGY X 489.6 - Urban Food Production

The production, packaging, and transportation of food are large contributors to our global carbon emissions. Throughout the Los Angeles basin, food gardens have sprung up producing local healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables while contributing energy and financial savings in difficult economic times. Using the history and current practices of growing food in the city as a template, this course explores how urban grown food reduces food budgets, encourages food sovereignty while addressing environmental concerns. Participants are each given a small plot for growing food where they can experiment with new ideas and enjoy their harvest. Topics include fruit trees, vegetables, and berries that do well in our climate as well as often overlooked food-producing perennials. We address pitfalls, challenges and practical answers to growing food in modern city lots where the "back 40" describes square feet and not acres.

13 March, 2018

Beginning Seed Saving - Easy Peasy!


We have all been “beginning” seed savers at one time or another. While some have been at it their whole lives, others have come to the party much later in life; others have saved one seed, for example, tomato seed, but haven't bothered with anything else. We can become intimidated by the seemingly endless bits of information from plant to plant and, overwhelmed, through up our hands in despair and put off learning it until next year.

I think I would have done that same thing as well, except I had already scheduled a seminar with me teaching seed saving to about 50 people in 3 months. I was kind of under the gun. I knew of some seed saving, after all, I knew my grandfather had saved seeds – I well remember the kitchen table covered with newsprint and tomato seeds spread out to dry before being  put into envelopes saving for next year.

I dove into several books (see bibliography below), reading them and comparing notes and tried putting what I was reading into action as best I could. I learned that reading about seed saving had it's limits. Doing seed saving taught me much faster, although a little theory up front was necessary. It's just you don't learn how to save seeds by reading everything the world has written about seed saving. We learn by doing it. And everything is easy if you know how!

You will make mistakes. Usually, the mistakes can be eaten and that's the end of it. Some mistakes end up in the compost pile. No big deal. Accept that making mistakes is your price for admission to the club of seed savers.

Start out simple and small. Do not overwhelm yourself. Choose a vegetable from the “easy to save seeds” list. If you already store dry beans, peas or other legumes to be hydrated and cooked in the off season, you are already saving those seeds! The only thing you might change is to look the plants over before you harvest from them, looking for the plant that had the most, or the biggest, maybe the earliest or the latest beans. Whatever you fancy as a good visible trait in your beans. Mark those plants you find to be “the best” and save seeds from those several plants to plant next year. By doing that over and over again, you are “selecting” for that trait and by golly one day you might have a variety that is bigger, better, earlier or later to call your own!

Chose your first seed saving activity from this list:
Beans 
Garbanzo beans
Lentils
Lettuce
Peas
Tomatoes*

Self pollination (seed savers often abbreviate that to just "self" or "selfing") is found in about 15% of all plants. It is really very predominate in the bean family, Fabacea, the grass family, Poacea – except for corn which is a plant unto its self. Some plants in the sunflower family, Asteraceae, do self-pollinate, others cross. Count on lettuce to always self and other sunflower-like plants to self only as a last resort.

Start with the self-pollinators as they are the easiest. You really have nothing to do but save the seeds! But what does that mean?

Black garbanzo beans are my current favorite thing in the
whole wide world! On the left, towards the top, the
very small flower and just to the right of center, the green pods.
These plants are slated to provide seeds for the Seed Library of Los Angeles
for next years cool season offerings.

Seeds always come after the plant has flowered – in fact, as far as the plant is concerned, producing flowers, which then produce the seeds, is what it's all about. There is a bevy of jokes of poor taste here, but I'll leave that to your imagination. You never see lettuce flowers because your whole gardening career is to eat it before it bolts. (Remember the term, “gone to seed?” Like a reference to a once prosperous town that has fallen on hard times, could be said “just went to seed” as a derisive comment – our 'job' as gardeners is to get rid of those plants before they've gone to seed.) Seed saving stands the traditional garden model on it's head.

(Working in my garden one day, in an area full of lettuce that had “gone to seed” - a man from the street called to me, “Is this your garden?” I said it was. Pointing to all the plants that were in various stages past prime eating time, “If this was my garden, I shoot myself!” because he was measuring it by a different metric. I saw seeds, he saw overgrown, spent plants.)

I have always believed that persistence and patience were the golden keys to gardening – and I think it's even more true for seed savers.
This lettuce is from some spilled seed so we
are unsure of its name, I think it's Merlot, but
name or no name, I'm saving the seeds. I'll
find out the name later.

I'll go into specifics in later posts, but for right now I would like you to do two things. I'd like you to buy a notebook – or create a Word document – in which to track your seed saving experiences. I want you to be able to track your seeds through a couple of generations to see how well you are doing – or if it's just not happening for you, and I'd like to you read part of ONE book listed below. Lettuce season for us is about over – if you have one variety of lettuce you love, let one or two plants go to seed – just by leaving them alone – if they are isolated to where you can cut down – or eliminate – the water, all the better. You will see the flowers fade and, as the plant becomes ever less attractive, you'll begin to see little cups – where the flowers once were – full of seeds – maybe 10 to 20 seeds in each one. Viola! You have saved seeds! You'll need to make sure they are completely dry and then store them – cool, dark and dry – for next season. More on that too!

If you have no lettuce left, get some beans in the ground and follow my advice above about saving the seeds that are more like what you want. I'll discuss how to store them in an upcoming blog (easy-peasy)! 

david 

* observe your tomato flowers as they first open: do the inner parts of the tomato flower extend beyond the flower's tip? If so, you have a variety that can be pollinated by insects and is therefore not a “self-pollinating” tomato. This is more common in the old varieties of tomatoes, sadly, usually the ones you most want to save.

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History,Weaver, William Woys ©1997, Henry Holt It is now out of print and getting a copy can be hellish (NEWSFLASH: IT IS BACK IN PRINT!!!) It is a wonderful book that needs to be put back in print because the research he put into the book makes this to be the most informative books on heirloom vegetables that has ever been published. Mother Earth News has the entire book on a CD – you can find it on their website – of course that's not a book, but you will have the data.

A Seed Saving Guide for Gardeners and Farmers, Organic Seed Alliance © 2010 OSA This publication is a free download from organicseedalliance.org. It is a succinct guide with few frills but a great deal of good data. A free publication that is worth paying for! Organic Seed Alliance is a non-profit relying on contributions to fight the invasion of hybrids and GMO seeds in our lives. I suggest throwing a donation their way as they deserve it.

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, Deppe, Carol © 2000, Chelsea Green Publishing The subtitle gets more to our point: The Gardeners' and Farmers Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving, I had bought this book about three years ago and, for whatever reason, I ignored it. In preparing to teach seed saving one more time,, the subtitle pulled me in: Suddenly, it was a different book. She is very, very funny and her stories of seed saving are heart warming; I felt I had met a kindred spirit – I want to drive to Oregon and 'shoot the compost' about seeds over a brew or tea or whatever she's having. 

These are the three I found the best.  Deppe's book (Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties) starts out with stuff I still do not understand, but half way through, the whole book changes into the  best stuff written about saving seeds and it is easily assimilated.  

When I teach seed saving, the OSA guide is the one I recommend because it is free and, at 35 pages, it is always right on point.