Mark attended a workshop over three Saturday mornings in September to learn from the pros how to harvest, process, and save seeds. He was so enthusiastic about it that he convinced me to attend the last session. You'd think that you can just take the seeds out of whatever fruit or vegetable you have, dry it out, and then plant it in the ground later on, but some seeds have adapted to protect themselves in such a way that they actually need some help. Tomato seeds, for example, are coated in a kind of jelly--you've seen it--that needs to ferment in order to be viable. The mold eats the protective outer layer, and the seed can't germinate without it.
Processing some seeds, such as shelling peas, feels like such a profoundly useful activity that I could do it all day. We learned winnowing (I've always wondered what that was) with leek seeds, which entails rubbing handfuls of seed between your palms to separate the chaff from the seed itself, and then blowing the chaff away by pouring everything from one vessel to another in front of a fan. After you sift the mixture, all you're left with are the little black seeds, which in this case will be sent to a small, local seed company.
I love this kind of work because it's methodical, almost meditative, but it can also be social. All of us sat on the floor of the barn on a mild, damp day, working and chatting, and several hours passed before we knew it. There's even talk of starting a collective seed bank using our own gardens and seeds.
And speaking of seeds, we just got our garlic in the mail. It goes in the ground this week, becoming our official first planting for 2009. And the cycle begins again.