East Sac Edible


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Saving Seed: Calypso Drying Beans

I planted a few Calypso beans this year for drying. The Calypso bean has black and white markings with a contrasting dot so it is also called the Yin Yang bean or the Orca bean. I planted these bush beans straight into the ground back in May. This is the first time I have planted these so I really only did a few for a test run. I only had four plants that survived so it really isn’t enough for much of anything but I can always throw them into a soup or save them to plant next year. I let the bean plant completely die (in the ground!) and let the beans dry out on the plants. It is hot in Sacramento so this works really well but if you live in a climate where you can’t let them dry completely on the plant you can always pull up the plant and put it in a dry place to finish drying. Opening bean pods is always like unwrapping a gift especially when you have such interesting and beautiful beans as Calypso. Next year I am going to plan a little better to get many, many more of these plants in the ground!DSC_2762 DSC_2763 DSC_2766 DSC_2767 DSC_2760

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Saving Seed: Onion

About a month ago I pulled up my onions some of which went to seed. Below is an onion flower head in May…
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and this is what the same flower head looks like today. DSC_2514

I left the flower head on the patio table to dry out and honestly forgot about it. The other day I walked by and noticed lots of little onion seeds scattered on the ground letting me know I needed to take care of this. To collect the onion seed I brought the flower head inside and put it in a brown paper bag…
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I shook the bag vigorously and was left with this: DSC_2519

The seeds easily popped out and I have collected another season’s worth of onion seed. I still need to collect a few more flower heads and do the same collecting process so I get some diversity of seed.DSC_2520

I also cleaned up some of the onions that had dried up to put away for storage. I think a few of them are not going to store so well so I am going to have to use them up sooner rather than later. I was very pleased with this set of onions so I am glad I have some of the seed saved. These onions did really well in poor soil and with irregular watering!DSC_2521


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Planting Beans

Last year my most prolific bean was the Blue Lake Runner Bean. My niece and I built two bamboo trellises in between our pineapple guava plants. The beans took over and wrapped themselves around the guava plants as well. Here is a picture of when we first planted in April, then a picture of the beans sprouted in late April and then finally a picture in September of 2013. You can’t even see the pineapple guavas!

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I also made an 8 foot trellis to plant Scarlet Runner beans, saved year after year from my dad’s garden. These flowers of the Scarlet Runners are so beautiful and attracted many pollinators but I ate a whole lot more Blue Lake beans than Scarlet Runners. Here is a picture of the trellis which I made partially to screen the compost from view, the second picture you can see the Scarlet Runners in mid-season and then a picture of them in September on the left.

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I also planted several varieties of bush beans and staked them up using short Mulberry branches. I planted Purple Queen Bush Beans and Yellow Wax Bush Beans. I like planting bush beans because they give you a harvest earlier than the runner beans. I also tend to plant these in my raised beds so they give back to the soil. They also are a faster crop than runner beans. Bush beans tend to put out lots of beans at once and then the plant is done whereas you can harvest from runner beans all season. It is nice to have a mix in your garden. I harvested 4.21 pounds of bush beans and 15.25 pounds of runner beans in 2013.

After the 2013 bean season was over, I let the plants die on their trellises. I collected some seeds from the best specimens. Then I cut the bean plant at the base leaving the roots intact in the ground. I chopped the plants into smaller pieces and lightly dug them into the ground. Beans are soil builders. Their roots fix nitrogen into the soil which benefits following crops of heavy feeders. This is why I use the chop and drop method of cleaning up my beans. Plus it is hard to keep up with all the biomass at the end of the summer so dropping them in their place helps free up space in my compost.

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This year I decided to move my Blue Lake Beans to the main 8 foot trellis since that was what we enjoyed eating the most. I planted some Scarlet Runners in the front yard because I thought they would be a beautiful addition to my front yard landscape adding color from the flowers and height. However, the beans never germinated so I wont be enjoying any Scarlet Runners this year. I also planted two more varieties of runner beans: Trionfo Violetto and Orient Wonder. I also wanted to experiment with a few beans for storage so I planted the Calypso Bush bean in the back of the yard and California Blackeye Cowpea in my raised bed. Since I am just going to wait for these to dry on the plant to collect and store the beans I tried to put them in places that were out of the way. I think some of the beans I am just getting into the ground way to late so I am hoping I will get some sort of harvest from them before it is too late! Here are a few pictures of what my beans looked like in the garden yesterday:

DSC_2116Blue Lake Runner BeansDSC_2114 Calypso Bush Beans

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Orient Wonder Pole Yard Long Beans in the herb garden.DSC_2124 Trionfo Violetto Pole Bean climbing up a corn. The corn blew over in strong wind the other day so I am not sure how successful the bean or the corn will be.DSC_2127Trionfo Violetto climbing up Mulberry canes attached to the support cables from the power lines.


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Saving Seed: Pink Surprise Calendula

Wow, lots of saving seed posts lately! It seems like lately every time I go into my garden there is another seed waiting to be saved. Yesterday I was working in my front yard raised bed and I noticed that my calendula flowers looked rather tired and slumped over. I looked closer and noticed that some of the flower heads were dry and the seeds ready to be harvested. This variety of calendula was called Pink Surprise… but the pink never surprised me. The flowers were all orange so I am not sure where the pink came into play. DSC_1683 DSC_1684 DSC_1686

The seeds are super easy to collect. This is my first time growing calendula and my first time saving the seed. It was pretty self explanatory! I just picked off the flower heads and broke them apart revealing the seeds inside. The seeds were a brownish gray and are curled up. I think the calendula seed looks like mini armadillos curled up. They even have spiny backs! DSC_1687

Calendula is self seeding which means next year I probably will have it pop up on its own again. This is great because I really tend to focus on edibles first and flowers second (or not at all!). I am trying to make an effort to integrate more flowers into my garden and this will definitely be a gardening goal for next year. However I am saving seed so that I can either give it away or plant it myself if the calendula fails to self seed.  DSC_1693


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Saving Seed: Garlic Chives

I planted these garlic chives last year and they have been doing great in my herb bed. They are getting a bit crowded so I may have to split them at some point. I’ve never reproduced garlic chives by the division of clump method but it is suppose to help the plant live longer and more vigorously. Plus you get two plants for one! DSC_1624DSC_1626DSC_1630

As you can see, some of the flower heads have dried out and the seeds are threatening to burst out. I picked a few of the flower heads that were dry to save the seed. I noticed on the flower heads where the stem had completely dried there were not as many seeds compared with flowers that were mostly dry but the stems were still green. I wasn’t sure if I had to wait for the stems to be completely dry but it seems that a lot of seeds popped out already. Maybe I need to tie a bag around the flowers since my timing wasn’t perfect. After I pinched off the flowers, I put them into a bowl. Some of the seed easily popped out and some I had to rub the flowers between my fingers to release the seeds. DSC_1634

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Seed Saving: Lacinato Kale Part 2

I went into the garden this evening to do a few things here and there… add a bucket of compost in some of the beds here… train up my cucumber on the trellis over there. Sometimes there are things in the garden that you just keep putting off. You really should get to it but you just can’t get around to it. Well awhile ago I posted about saving my Lacinato Kale seed but the thing is I only did a little seed saving and I left the monster plant with thousands of seeds in the garden. The other day when I was in the garden I noticed small seeds all over my path so I knew I needed to tackle the rest of this task. Well today was the day and after an hour in the garden the monster is gone! DSC_1658 DSC_1660

First I started by pulling up the plant. Then I cut smaller branches off so it would fit into a 5 gallon bucket. In the bucket I scrunched up the seed pods with my hands, releasing the seeds into the bottom of the bucket. I took the bigger pieces of seed pods and put those into the compost. Then I grabbed a small pan and my compost sifter. DSC_1661

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The first pass through the compost sifter really helped separate the bigger remnants of the seed pods but the holes in the compost sifter were still too large. I passed the seeds through the compost sifter one more time before using a mesh with smaller holes. I then folded my mesh in half to make even smaller holes for the seeds to pass. I hope I can make some screens in the future to help me with the winnowing process! DSC_1665 DSC_1667 DSC_1668 DSC_1669

Almost all the bigger pieces were sifted out of the seeds. The rest of the debris I separated by a combination of blowing, using a fan and gravity to separate the seeds and chaff. We don’t have electric fan which would have made this job much easier so we used the low tech method. DSC_1671 DSC_1672

I wasn’t able to get all of the debris away from the seeds but it still was pretty good. Look at how many seeds I saved! That is a half pint jam jar almost full of seeds! I have so many that I will have to give a lot away! DSC_1677 DSC_1680


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Saving Seed: Lacinato Kale

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Kale plant falling over heavy with seed pods

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Look at how tall the plant is!

I planted this six Italian Lacinato kale plants last year and they grew into incredible kale trees, providing me kale all year long. I was surprised how long the growing season of these plants were and they seemed to get even stronger during the winter months. I left two of my best plants up to save seed. It took forever for the seeds to finally dry out but this week I went into the yard and I noticed that some of the pods were dry enough to harvest! I was contemplating just tearing out the plants because they were falling over into my other garden bed but I am glad I waiting because now I have hundreds (probably thousands) of seed. Also these were my two healthiest and strongest plants. They even combated an infestation of aphids at one point.

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This year’s kale plant

A few dates:

Kale from seed: February 13, 2013

Kale sprouted: February 17, 2014

Kale transplanted outside: March 16, 2014

Kale harvest dates: May 2013-February 2014

Dates for seeds to form and dry: February 2014-May 2014

DSC_1567 DSC_1571 DSC_1573 DSC_1575 DSC_1584When saving small seeds like kale it is best to work in a box or a bag in order to catch the seeds. When fully dry the seed pods can spring open spraying seeds in all directions. Releasing the seeds from their pods is deeply therapeutic work! It reminds me of my childhood when I would search my father’s garden for poppy seeds ready to burst open. Such simple childhood entertainment!