Saving Lettuce Seed

Saving seeds from lettuce.  Original Cracoviensis lettuce seeds came from Seed Savers Exchange.  Our crop turned out so well that I decided to try my hand at seed saving for the first time in order to have more for next year.  Lucky, as it now seems like Seed Savers is sold out of that variety.

The process for collecting the seed is pretty simple – you just let one lettuce plants bolt.  After a few weeks, the familiar lettuce plant  grew into a thick stalk about five feet tall, with flowering fronds at the top (sort of like this).  Once the flowers had started to bloom, I took the seed pods home and let them dry out over a couple of days before trying to remove the seeds.

Admittedly, I didn’t bother to do much research on harvesting the seeds, so my process was largely trial and error. After spending some time manually prying individual pods apart (easy, but slow) I decided to put the remaining pods inside a cloth bag and mash it around to open all the pods at once.  This worked fine, but left all the bits of chaff in with the seeds.  As a second step, I ran the pile of seeds and casings through a sieve, which caught most of the larger pieces of chaff and left me with a relatively clean pile of seeds.

The seeds I got were ultimately a bit smaller than the ones from the packet, which I chalk up to not waiting long enough to harvest the pods.  I may try to test a few out in a window box just to see how viable they are.

Regardless of the results, it was really amazing how many seeds I got from just one plant.  After all the care I took in raising these lettuce plants, the natural process of self-propagation automatically provides the gardener or farmer with the core supply necessary to carry on growing crops – and in bulk!

Ultimately, if I took these seeds to early and they don’t grow much lettuce next year, it’s not the end of the world – I don’t mind paying a couple extra bucks for a new packet from Seed Savers.  However, going through this process really gave me a more tangible appreciation for the impact that anti-seed saving measures on GE crops (most notably carried out by Monsanto) must have on commercial farmers.


3 Comments on “Saving Lettuce Seed”

  1. Eileen says:

    Yes to saving seeds! Radishes and carrots are also great candidates for bolting-for-seed, and I even have a couple onion flowerheads clearly forming seeds. Also: tomato seeds. I’m just saying. 🙂

  2. healthninja says:

    This sounds like such a fullfilling experience! How beautiful it would be to see those small plants grow out of your own saved seeds. Cannot wait to have a garden myself one day – until then, I would be happy to find a flat with a balcony soon and start some wine box gardening.

  3. Eric says:

    Pretty cool! You might want to wait until the seed pods dry a little on their own and start to open, then collect the rest of them. With some plants, the seeds fall out pretty easily. You’d have to monitor things closely so that you get them before they open and blow away! I’ve saved seeds from peppers and basil, and had great luck with them. (I’ve also replanted chives with saved seeds, but the chives keep coming back anyway, so it’s not really necessary unless you’re trying to increase the amount.)

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