by Kathy Lundgren and Donna Cusano
On August 23rd, the TTM Reskilling and Food Group teams “cross pollinated” and scheduled a potluck dinner party and seed saving workshop. Veteran plantsman, Paco Verin, led our workshop and shared his background and passion for heirloom vegetable varieties. As a French and American dual citizen, Paco spent time in France during his early twenties and, like all French citizens, he was granted a one-year internship for career exploration. Already fueled by the U.S mode of building houses on prime farmland, Paco realized that the French style of preserving old ways: farmland, farming methods and “variétés” which is French for “varieties” is fairly well lacking here in the USA.
Back in the states, Paco and has since trained in horticulture, permaculture and organic farming. He promotes heirloom varieties and seed saving as a natural part of a healthy, sustainable and organic way of life. It’s fun. It’s free. It’s interesting. And the fruits and vegetable are superior in every time-tested way.
Heirloom tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, being in the nightshade family of plants, are easy to grow directly from the seeds of the mature fruit. Their flowers self-pollinate (pistol and stamen are each in every flower), so the seeds are always true to the parent plant. For the gelatinous seeds, such as tomato, put the seeds in a shallow saucer of water for 5 or so days. The water will ferment away the gel, which can prevent germination. Once free, dry the seeds thoroughly on a plate and they are ready to store in a cool dry place. Peppers and eggplants seeds are ready directly out of the fruit.
Heirloom squash seeds are trickier, but can be saved by the home gardener. Paco described the steps in the process. The pistol and stamen of squash are each in separate flowers. To create a true heirloom seed from squash, first, study the flower buds to learn the difference between the male and female flowers; the female flowers have a bulge at the base. Just at the brink of bud opening, carefully tie a square of cheesecloth around and enclosing the flower. Note where the nearby male flowers are. When the female flower opens, open up the cheesecloth, and hand swirl pollen from the male flower stamen onto the pistol of the female flower. Replace the cheesecloth and monitor the flower and upcoming fruit; the seeds in the fruit are true to the heirloom variety.
After the lecture, participants enjoyed a stroll through the home garden of Kathy and Bob Lundgren, identifying seeds that are ready for harvesting and processing. The enthusiastic group then enjoyed a potluck supper. Kathy provided “Nut-Seed Patties” (burgers on buns) from Recipes for a Small Planet which was inspired by the best-selling Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. See our photo for the recipe; we urge you to try these delicious burgers. The evening was capped off by an heirloom tomato seed-saving demonstration and hand-on activity led by Donna Cusano, allowing everyone to take home a variety of seeds that can be germinated next spring for the 2015 tomato season.