On adventures in seed-saving

img_1027The Milkman’s child amongst the green Amish Deer Tongue seedlings

I’ve been saving most of my seeds from one year to another for a few years now.  In some instances, growing things to save their seed is actually more arduous than growing the plants to simply be eaten…but some veggies are not so very hard or complicated.  Beans are probably the easiest, right up there with saving seed potatoes from one year to the next.  Lettuce, thankfully, falls in the “easy” category.

A couple of years back, I mentioned my slam-bang way of saving lettuce seed.  Likewise, planting the autumn volunteers from the fallen seed of blooming plants is another way we keep our greenhouse in salad all winter, as is planting little greenhouse volunteers. But one thing I haven’t really addressed is the potential for cross-pollination amongst the various lettuce types that I grow.

I hadn’t really noticed much change when I harvested seeds from same-colored, different-leaved types of lettuce in times past:  the genotype for leaf expression must remain fairly steady between generations.  But what I have discovered, happily, is the variant for both color and spotting seems to be fairly readily cross-pollinated.  So, what the hell does this mean?  It means I get spots from my Freckles Romaine on the second generation of Amish Deer Tongue lettuces that grew next to it.  It means I get a blush on the green Bibb lettuce that grew next to Red Sails, a loose-leaf lettuce.  It’s not happening all the time, but maybe 5% of the time; it’s fascinating to me.

img_10251Please, tell me that I’m pretty

I figure I have the next 50 years of my life to kind of figure out this whole botany thing.  But for now, I just say, look, let’s eat that pretty salad.

9 responses to “On adventures in seed-saving

  1. Funny you should post about this, as the whole planting/gardening process has me so interested in the botany of it all…. what traits come out, why specifically different types of plants absorb water differently, the pH of soils, the plant and cell structure…..

  2. Forgot to add, wonder if this affects many gardeners?

  3. I would have guessed forrellenschuss, or however it’s spelt. In any case, that looks like an improvement over run of the mill Amish Deer Tongue. (Sorry; I’m biased in favor of dark lettuces.) I agree the spots look tasty.

  4. I read your linked post about saving lettuce seed. How do you separate the seed from the crushed blossoms?

    • Hi Ppolischuk, they usually drop out to the bottom of the bag, but I also either rub the blossoms between my fingers or I rub them over a small mesh screened colander: the seeds just fall out and the blossoms stay in the colander. But honestly I usually plant whatever I have: including spent blossoms; as I figure the ground could use some more organic matter.

  5. I may try to save some of my lettuce seed this year. I really love lettuce and it is so easy.

  6. Yes, you’re pretty, and whoa!, that musta been one heckuva handsome milkman! Love those speckled lettuces. I’m all about color and weirdness in plants and critters. The more colorfully weird something is, the more I like/want it. My Aussie, Toodie, sends her regards…she’s got the most spectacular paint job ever.

  7. I’m still looking for the Milkmans child in the Pic.That went right over my head and for about ten seconds I was looking.Now I’d love to hear how it got that name back when.

  8. MC, yeah, I find it pretty cool myself. I could say it affects gardeners who are paying attention, especially those who start things from seed, and doubly especially from those who have never planted that seed before. You notice the similarity in families in both seed and first leaves, certainly. And then there’s the whole life cycle and production of seeds: why stop at food, or even just flowers, when you can grow them again?

    Kate, I agree as I like me some dark lettuces too but dark ones are both dependent on the cool of spring or fall for their color and dang do they wilt quicker after you pick them. I suppose everything has a downside to go with its upsides. I like planting the contrasting things meself! But no speckled trout here, just Freckles, which is our daughter’s favorite.

    Daphne, it is easy. Make sure it fully blooms and partially dries before you cut the plants though so the seeds are mature. But that’s easy to do because it just requires you to ignore it 🙂

    Blaithin, yes, kooky colors are important! My Aust. cattle dog Penny is tricolored but with them they turn out looking like one blob of color, with brown on the edges. Mottled paint I guess?

    John my only guess is that the milkman would be the only bloke who came by the household often enough…but yeah most big families usually have one kid who doesn’t quite look like his siblings, don’t they? Hmmm!

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