If you have been keeping up with my latest posts you will know that I like to collect my own seed. Why would someone want to save seeds? Well, for one thing it will save me money next year when I start to plan my spring garden. I save seeds from flowers and vegetables as most are so easy to save. It also makes me feel more self-reliant. I left a few of my lettuce plants to mature this summer. Usually most of us harvest our lettuce and use it in the kitchen. I left a couple of plants to go to seed. Each summer as the weather warms up cool season plants start to bolt. It’s the reaction to the longer days of summer and increasing temperatures. The plant sees this as a time to produce seeds. Sometimes its hard to know how a plant produces seeds. Seeds are commonly found on a plant inside the flower after it finishes blooming. Lettuce is no different. Above you can see the red lettuce plant at my community garden. Before collecting seed, check the original packing to see if your seed was open pollinated. If so go ahead and harvest seeds. To be honest, even if it’s a hybrid, what have you got to lose? It may not be the same plant that you grew this year but it will still be lettuce. Even open pollinated seed will cross-pollinate so unless you isolated your lettuce plants, they may not be exactly the same. For me I like to see what I get, it’s all about the surprise.
Here is the romaine lettuce ‘Little Gem’ that I grew. It doesn’t look anything like the nice clump of green leaves it was in the spring. The central stem has grown over two feet high and a profusion of tiny yellow daisies appeared. Here you can see some yellow buds just about to open.
Once the yellow daisies are finished blooming, they look very similar to dandelion fluff. It’s at this point that you want to harvest your seeds before they blow away in the wind.
Carefully pick off each brown capsule using a paper lunch bag to catch the seeds so you do not lose any. You can cut off the ones that are ready and leave the green pods to mature a bit more on the plant.
I love how the plant has these fuzzy adaptations which make seed travel easy. It’s no doubt the fairy like threads will blow around in the wind helping to spread the seed. With seed it’s all about survival of the fittest. Seed may blow miles away but unless conditions are right it may never germinate. I like to think that I am saving them from an unknown future. A gal can try, right?
Once you have brought the stems and seed heads inside, I like to leave them in the paper bag to dry for a few days. I just popped the bag on top of my fridge and forgot about it. The plan is to have the seeds dry by themselves and later package them.
I took the bag down after a few days and shook them out gently on to a plate. This is what I had so far. You can take the seed pods and rub them in your fingers and the seeds will be released.
This is what I was able to get from just a few seed pods. This is more than enough for my garden next year. Any extras I will package up for our seed swap next February. There is nothing more rewarding than trading seeds with friends!