Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pak Choi from seed to seed

These are Pak Choi blooms. Honeybees and Bumblebees were indifferent for them opting for other flowers instead, however sweat bees and other small pollinators were all over them constantly. You see I have these in a pot. I have several varieties, so to get more control over potential cross pollination I need to either use isolation, isolation cages, or put as many non-compatible flowers between the strains.

 Selection plays a part as well. In this pot I had started with about 15 plants. The first ones to show signs of bolting were harvested. The remaining 7 that were slower to bolt were selected. (yes.. pulled leaves and used them.. and they all passed the taste testing.) 

 You see the plant relation to other crops in the flowering and seed pod formation. As this sends up a spike and blooms for awhile (as you see in the picture.. some are opened and some are still buds). 

 You can actually eat the immature cabbage seed pods. 

 Harvesting the seed pods...  you have to keep an eye on them. When they are ready and the pod is fully dry, hold a container underneath the pod when you break it away. They tend to shatter. They also don't all ripen at once, so continuously checking and collecting almost daily is needed.

 Only 7 plants though? This year.. yes. I have some from last year and next year I will collect more. Is it enough? Well... from 7 plants this is about how much you can collect. Keep in mind I am still collecting from those same 7 plants as there are still quite a few pods still ripening!

This is a shot glass.. so you have an idea of size. The date is when I started collecting the first seeds. They are laid out to fully dry for several days. Shortly they will be packaged in paper envelopes in quantities for a season. The envelopes will be dated, have the strain name and basic information also included. They then will go into different air tight containers that sometimes I add desiccant to.

 I package them in smaller quantities for a couple of reasons... the less exposure the better is the main reason to retain viability longer. The second is in case a mishap occurs not all of my seeds will be lost. Third reason.. trying to maintain genetic diversity of a strain even though it is small scale seed collection. If a strain is too inbred it languishes.. not all crops are prone to genetic bottlenecking, but when working on small scale you want to keep diversity and at the same time be able to have most of the crop harvestable for consumption.

 When figuring out what quantity to package.. consider if this is a crop you intent on doing multiple sowings for that season. Then also add some extra "just in case" should you need to test germination.

 Those 7 plants alone have offered up more than enough seeds for me to do both spring and late summer plantings for the next 5 years plus for my family of 3 plus sharing with friends.

 How long do they store? Well... originally these were started from a package that was 10 years old and had better than 75% germination. Most seed saving guides give ranges from 1 to 5 years only (and for cabbage they usually say 3 or 4), but if properly stored they maintain viability much longer.

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