Welcome to the third installment of our early fall series on water-wise edible gardening. So far, we’ve talked about The Basics of Water-Wise Edible Gardening and introduced you to harvesting edibles from the landscape in our blog Putting The Desert In Dessert. Now it’s time to talk about seed saving and sharing.
Survival of the fittest is the basic tenet of evolution. This applies to our plants too, to some extent. As gardeners, we like plants that are easy to grow and that taste good. So with just a little bit of observation and planning, harvest seeds from your strongest-performing plants. This selection process not only provides you with vegetables, herbs, and flowers that are better adapted to our climate but also with those that match up to your own culinary tastes.
Once you’ve identified your favorite plants, it’s time to think about the best time to harvest. Dry seeds, like those found in peppers, beans, onions and spices like basil, are easy to clean once they have matured. Just crumble the seed heads/pods/husks, and then separate the seeds from the chaff. For tomatoes, fruits, and other wet seeds, you will need to separate the seeds from the pulp. Native Seed Search, a nonprofit seed conservation organization based in Tucson, provides some great seed saving instructions.
What’s even more fun than harvesting your own seeds, is to participate in a seed exchange program. Many Valley libraries including Mesa, Tempe, and Phoenix have seed libraries where you can borrow and donate and eventually grow your own edible gardens. For anyone in Southern Arizona, you can check out the seed library at Pima County Public Library.