The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to save seeds from Asian greens

Asian green seed pod

Brassica seedsAlthough neither of the Asian greens I tried this spring held together once the heat hit, Mark and I both loved the taste of tokyo bekana and want to try it in the fall garden.  I wasn't about to spend another $3 for a tiny package that barely seeds one bed, though, so I decided to let the spring crop go to seed and collect the bounty.

Asian greens definitely fit into the easy seed-saving category since the pods dry on the plant and hang around for weeks until you remember them.  Snip off the brown seed heads when they are brittle, then thresh them any way you feel like it.  Since Mom recently gave me this great pestle, it didn't take me long to pound the seed pods into submission.

Threshing mustard seeds

Winnow seedsShake your container gently and the heavier seeds will settle to the bottom, allowing you to lift most of the chaff off with your fingers.  Then blow into your box to finish the winnowing process --- the light pieces of pod will float away while the heavy seeds will stay put.  I didn't winnow all that carefully since I'm just going to be putting the seeds and debris back into the ground, but you could also pass the seeds through a screen (like a flour sifter) if you wanted them to be cleaner.

Brassica rapa seedsThe one potential sticking point when saving seeds from brassicas is that many will cross-pollinate.  However, Asian greens share their species (Brassica rapa) only with turnips and with rape (the plants that are used to produce canola oil).  As long as you don't have any other Asian green varieties, turnips, or rape plants in bloom at the same time as your select variety, you can save the seeds with impunity.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I wish I'd thought of this -- we went from snow to heat with no real springtime in between and my gai lan in particular bolted. Although I have to say, I did really well with Asian greens under my wee hoop houses early in the season -- I had komatsuna, gai lan, and baby bok choi under plastic in March and April when everything outside was still frozen. Then I made kimchee out of the bolted greens -- still fermenting in the basement. We'll see how it comes out.

Comment by Charlotte Sat Jul 16 15:34:09 2011
Yup, that sudden hot spell is what did ours in too. That's why I want to give the greens another try in the fall --- I think their quick bolting wasn't really their fault and hope they'll shine in cooler weather.
Comment by anna Sat Jul 16 19:52:17 2011

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