I spent a very interesting hour or two this morning at a seed saving workshop here close to the town where I live, it was held at the Brown Envelope Seeds farm, (which lies close to the Roaring water bay), in West Cork.
About a dozen of us listened intently as Madeline McKeever, the owner of the farm, explained how we could go about saving our own seeds. Giving an oversight of pollination, cross pollination, inbreeding, outbreeding, and F1 Hybrids, how to choose best varieties for seed saving, time taken to germinate, and seed coat dormancy. She demonstrated how to save tomato seeds, and explained how best to store seeds, to store them cool and especially dry which is in this climate not so easy, or at least needs special attention. I was interested to learn that the seeds of one particular type of lettuce are so easy to obtain, just letting the plant go to flower and seed, but that they need cold to start germinating, that is something to remember.
It was great to take a walk on Madeline’s farm and to see what she is growing. I liked the black dwarf beans, so easy to get at, low to the ground. I also noticed some different ways of trailing the peas, and beans, and even the courgettes, helpful for my own vegetable growing. Madeline is growing, among others, several types of beetroot in order to choose varieties for seed saving. Everywhere were piles of plant material drying out in order to harvest the seeds. Also interesting was it to see the corn grown here, according to Madeline, it has become smaller over the few years she has grown it, it has acclimatised to the West Cork climate we were told, makes sense too. So Madeline introduced a good heirloom American corn and sowed it among her local corn, this corn grows much larger, and the hope is that it will cross pollinate with the local corn and in doing so producing a good better local corn. Exciting when you think of it, all experiments.
Several of the attendants agreed that if something does not grow well for you, not to bother with it in future. So for example, growing tomatoes outside is just a total no-no around here, I have tried it and it did not work out, Madeleine agrees, the climate is not suited to it, no matter what tomato type you try. We were told that vegetables typically grown in South American thrive really well in West Cork’s climate, an interesting bit of information. It is the first time that I am growing oca, a Peruvian vegetable as far as I know, and I am really looking forward to see my harvest later in the year.
I bought two packets of seeds to take home and try out, one is Red Orache, a mildly flavoured spinach type, and the other is winter purslane, also known as Miners lettuce or Claytonia, I have been wanting to grow this, I will still sow these this autumn, for winter harvest.
It has been a very interesting morning, been well worth putting in the time and effort, and I know that I for one have a lot to learn yet.
Continuing instructions in one of the greenhouses.
Showing us different types of grains growing in Ireland, and types of tomatoes currently popular around here.
Coriander and lettuce seed heads.
Different types of beetroot.