My garden looks a little bare right now, it's the unmistakable time of transition. Out with the cool season vegetables and in with summer veg. I've been harvesting a good deal from the patch, and much of either now resides in our bellies or is hanging on the old wire clothes line, strung up in bunches to dry and will keep us in store of garlic, shallot and onion for the next little while/until it runs out.
I've had some real success with sweet green peas in abundance and we've fed on plenty of crunchy fresh broccoli. These cool season veg and many other varieties, have given us a good run these last few months, but it hasn't all been rosy. Some veg was a real failure, for some reason they've just dogged it in this yard. Onions where slow to grow and rarely did I get a large sized specimen. The parsnips came out both poor in size and disfigured in shape, but saying that they didn't go to waste. I roasted them and made a spread with cream cheese and chilli. Wow! I must admit, I like turning apparent failures into edible success and that roasted parsnip dip was a winner.
I've been extra vigilant in regards to seed collection this year. The process is a steep learning curve for me as I've only really collected tomato, garlic, beans and pumpkin seeds in the past. I'm now making more of a concerted effort to be independent in regards to my seed supply, as I may not always be able to buy seeds. I guess I'm preparing myself to be more independent, and thus forcing me to give this seed collecting a real red hot go. I'll continue to learn techniques and I'll share seeds with anyone else on a similar path. So far I've collected rocket, broccoli, kale, onion, spinach and a bunch of peas that I left on the vine. For most seed collection I've simply allowed the basics of biology to occur, the plant is first allowed to flower, the insects pollinate the flower, then seed pods develop which are harvested and allowed to dry by either hanging of cutting off and storing in glass jars unsealed. I hope this method works, as not all of my vegetables are necessarily heirloom and I don't know if the seeds will be viable. I'm not banking on all of them working, but this is my learning approach, I learn by by doing, sometimes making mistakes, sometimes succeeding, but all I'm really doing is simply taking a chance and seeing what happens.
The hardest plant to collect seeds from was the pea's. I really had to restrain myself from picking one last meal from these sweet green beauties, instead I had to allow the pods to go past their edible stage and into their seed curing stage. In the end I've ended up with what appears like a tribal necklace of pea's! I've used the same drying technique I use for drying wild mushrooms.
I used needle and thread (well fishing line more precisely), thread each pea and then I hang the seed in a dry cool place in the old school house. The pods will eventually become dry and quite crisp, which will signify that the pea's inside are dried completely and then can be removed and stored in a jar in a few months time. Fingers crossed we get a good crop of peas like we did this spring.
Many a delicious pea meal has been enjoyed this spring. This being the last fresh pea meal, a salad with new season spuds (Dutch Cream), pea, home smoked bacon, mint and goats cheese. Simply beautiful.
There is very much a reminder of ones mortality when seed collecting. Well maybe not for everyone but in my munted mind. The principle purpose of life as a living organism is to pass our genetic information down to the next generation in the hope that what we are as an animal, our traits, our physical build up, our very being somehow remains on earth in some way, shape or form. This is all the vegetables are doing by their flowering and seeding process. It's very much a case of not managing the vegetables but merely facilitating their genetic longevity. And at the end of one hell of a hectic year, I'm glad to be once again taking part in something so very real and in my mind, worthwhile.