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.



Trying to make sauerkraut at home has been on my agenda for a while now after running across Sandor Katz‘s book, Wild Fermentation. The Brooklyn Public Library’s waiting list for the book itself is actually quite long, so I basically followed the method he outlines in this video:

My kraut was made from a white cabbage base, with a bit of carrot and onion. I also have a smaller auxiliary batch that includes some leftover diced jalapeno. I think the cabbage I used must have been a bit old because after a good deal of kneading, it didn’t release nearly enough liquid to submerge the veggies. So, I ended up adding water after I packed it into jars so that everything would be covered in liquid.

I’ll check back in a couple days to see what sort of progress it’s making. Anybody else made sauerkraut before? Any useful tips?

Tangentially, I fell down a google hole while first looking up sauerkraut videos and then krautrock videos and found a cool BBC krautrock documentary on YouTube. Really interesting story about the development of post-WWII German pop music. FYI – there is some nudity etc. etc.

First Taste of the Garden Season

The weather’s starting to look more consistently springy this week, so we spent some of this weekend preparing to get back into the garden. Yesterday we started seedlings for some yellow cherry tomatoes, basil, dill, thyme, and seasoning celery. We’re planning to add cucumbers seedlings soon, as well as sowing lettuce and spinach seed directly into the ground for early crops.

Taking a spin through the garden the morning, I found the garlic we planted last fall going strong. Can’t wait to start harvesting scapes. Plus, a fellow gardener gave me some arugula that overwintered in her plot. I put it on the egg sandwich you see above – our first taste of the garden this year!

Upcoming Event: Visit our Garden!

The Flatbush Community Garden will be having an open house on Sunday, Sept. 25th! If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by! There will be tours, baked goods and good times. Details can be found here.

Peanut Noodles with Garlic Scapes

Things in the garden plot are really starting to shoot up. Pretty soon we’ll have a whole mess of kale, chard, beets, and purple pole beans. For the time being, however, the garlic cloves we planted last fall have just produced big, beautiful scapes. I harvested a few of them last night and we threw them in (fine chopped) into some peanut noodles.

The peanut sauce was homemade, and mostly leftover from a dinner last week – we had to add some extra water and vinegar to loosen it up. After mixing the sauce into some whole wheat noodles, we just dumped in the scapes along with some chopped up veggie chic patties (not that frugal) and black sesame seeds.

Back to the Land

Realized recently that we haven’t really written at all about getting back to our community garden plot with the start of this year’s growing season.

I just spent the early afternoon doing some general plot maintenance and planing a couple of tomato seedlings. My reward was a big bunch of mint that I’m going to make into iced mint tea later today. I also got a bunch of motherwort, which has been growing like crazy in one of the common areas. Nobody had been picking it – partially because a lot of us didn’t know what to do with it – but from the link above, it seems like a tea infusion could be used for a whole range of medicinal purposes. Anybody have any experience with this plant?

Anyway, in our own plot we’ve got big, healthy garlic plants from cloves we planted last fall, as well as a whole lot of beets, chard, and kale. We’ve also got a couple of hearty-looking purple pole bean seedlings. Hopefully we should start doing some harvesting within the next few weeks.

We also need to figure out what to put in the space where our radishes were. I guess we could put in more radishes, but it seems like they just end up being varmint bait.


Purple pole beans

Radish Greens Frittata

Though we haven’t been posting about it much, we have in fact been pretty busy at the Flatbush Community Garden over the last several weeks. We sowed our plot with beets, kale, chard, purple pole beans, and radishes. Of these, the radishes are the quickest to reach maturity and after over a week of steady rain in Brooklyn, they were in perfect shape for harvesting yesterday. Or rather, they would have been, except that once again, our radish crop has been ravaged by some varmint. Out of about a dozen radishes, all but one suffered substantial chew damage. We cut the clean bits out and had those in salad, but we really only got about three radishes worth.

However, whatever it was that ate the radishes was picky enough to leave the radish greens totally untouched, so we were able to put those into a frittata with a bit of feta. It was cooked in a cast iron skillet, first on the stovetop and then under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Topped with some chopped avocado, it made a nice, light dinner with some bread and salad.

FCG Fundraiser

Anybody who is going to be in the NYC area (Brooklyn in particular) on the afternoon of Saturday, December 4 is cordially invited to join us at Sycamore for our first annual Flatbush Community Garden fundraiser.

We’ll have drink specials, some food, and raffle prizes from a bunch of great local businesses. Plus there will be a bunch of really experienced gardeners in attendance (much more experienced than us), so if you’ve been thinking about starting up an urban garden and are wondering where to start with planting, composting, soil quality concerns, etc., there will probably be some folks there who can give you some good advice.

All the relevant details can be found on this flier.

Hope to see you there!

Garden: Keep on Keepin’ On

We heard tell of a giant hailstorm while we were away in Quebec and were worried that our garden might have gotten pummeled, but an after-work trip on Thursday revealed that we are still definitely in business. As you can see above, I was able to haul back a bunch of collards, some lemongrass, a load of basil, some Italian frying peppers, and a few jalapenos.

More From the Garden

The garden plot keeps on giving. On Tuesday I stopped by to do some watering and made of with some cherry tomatoes and banana peppers (I think) from the common plot, as well as some hot Chinese five color peppers from our own plot. Right now, all five of those colors are purple on our bush (apparently they will change if we are patient), but they are hot, hot, hot.