BioSwirskii

The Edible Quote


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The trouble with gardening is that it does not remain an avocation. It becomes an obsession.
~ Phyllis McGinley

BioSwirskii

Keeping Heirloom seeds pure (Part 3)


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I have had a number of requests for information on saving carrot seed. In this post I’m going to cover the basics around seed production of bi-annual crops, and specifically carrots.

Bi-annual crops are typically crops that need two growing seasons with a winter dormant period in the middle. Crops like these are Carrots, Beetroot, Salsify, Turnips and Scozonera. But can also include other plants like Brassicas.

These plants are either insect or wind pollinated and different management styles need to be used when trying to keep seed pure.
If you are only saving one seed variety of each crop then most of your problems are solved as they will not cross pollinate except for beets and spinach where the two are very easily crossed. (This discussion excludes Brassicas, which is a multiple post a topic all on its own)

Basically what needs to be done is plant your crops for seed production in the first summer, allow the plants to grow to full maturity and then they need to experience a period of vernalization over winter. This dormant period is generally essential in most root crops, however there are some varieties or individual plants ain a population that will produce seed just before winter if planted really early in summer. I believe though that the seed would not be of a superior quality and should not be saved for any reason as you will be perpetuating an early seeding variety or ‘sport’ of a variety.

Cages for isolating different carrot strains
Cages for isolating different carrot strains

Early in spring the following year you will notice that the carrot plants start to throw a flower spike, depending on the variety that you are growing this flower spike can be anything from 50cm to over 200 cm tall. Once the flowers open, you will notice that the flowers are predominantly visited by flies, but many other bugs and insects will visit the flowers to pollinate.
The individual flowers in the umbels open in successively, with male and female portions ripening in different orders to ensure that the flowers are not self pollinated.

A carrot "King flower" ready for harvest.
A carrot "King flower" ready for harvest.

The most important flower on a plant is the “King Flower” this is the largest flower on the plant and produces the best seed. This seed should be saved for propagation from year to year. The balance of the flowers also produce good quality viable seed.

Now the problem comes in when you are growing more than one variety of carrot and you would like to keep the seed pure. The easiest way to do this is with caging the plants. Very simply an insect proof net is erected over the cages and flies are caught in a regular fly-trap, the flies are released into the cages where they perform their duties admirably.

From there it’s a simple case of waiting for the seed to dry on the plant, picking the seed and then processing. They can be sown again within a few weeks, as long as they have had a chance to dry out properly.

BioSwirskii

Book Review – Living the Good Life


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When a fellow homeschooler and gardening friend visited us in November last year she implored us to get a copy of Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn, we subsequently ordered a copy of the book and very simply its inspiring.

Linda, her partner Trev and their son Caleb took on the challenge of not spending any money for 6 months. The book takes the form of a diary of the six months and gives an insight into the transition from consumer to self-provision. That description I fear is a bit bland as it’s not just about self provision but also understanding what lifestyle changes need to be made on so many different levels.

There are a few lapses where they just broke down or had to travel as a family where they indulged in forbidden fruit, but when looking at what they achieved overall it’s impressive, inspiring and well worth the read.

BioSwirskii

The Edible Quote


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Men are taught virtue and a love of independence by living in the country.
~ Menander

BioSwirskii

Storing your Seeds


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Seed Saving and in turn seed storage, was possibly the first act of agriculture, without seed saving (or the storing for the next season) the first farmer would not have been able to plant a crop.

Unlike today’s Dictocrats that would want to regulate the saving of seed, that first act of seed saving led to the establishment of organised agriculture, and a rich tradition that we now take part of every time we save the seed of a variety that we have planted.

The first farmers probably did not have much in the way of information and storage mechanisms that we have at our disposal and possibly the lost seed to various pests and critters that ate into their saved stores. Today there is a wealth of information available for the seed saver in terms of books and references that will enable one to extend the lifespan of their saved seed.

This is intended as a simple primer for the average gardener to be able to save seed from year to year without the need to invest in expensive machinery to save their seed.

Typically a person will harvest a fruit and decide to save some seed for a friend of family member that was particularly enamoured with a dish consisting of that vegetable. Or knowing that getting more seed of the same variety could present problems the gardener decides to save some seed.

When we started with heirloom seed we never planted the variety of vegetables that we plant now, we cycled through our seed collection over a few years, first to ensure fresh seed and secondly to have a change in vegetables, flavours and variety. (OK the order may be mixed-up but your get the general idea) There is no need to plant everything that you have in your seed box every year, cycle through your seed collection and enjoy the variety.

The important thing is to save and store seed, without seed saving you will be reduced to becoming a normal vegetable gardener that has to return to the store every year to purchase fresh seed. Heirloom gardeners are not normal, we are a unique species and being tied down to corporate agri-business is not where we want to be. The simple act of seed saving is the start of your food rebellion, no longer will you be tied into corporate agri-business to provide you the makings of your garden….. You can do it yourself, for free… every year….. all you need to do is become a seed saver.

Below I will briefly cover some of the most common vegetables and how to go about storing the seed for more than a few years.

Tomatoes.

One of the most common heirloom seeds that are saved. Once the correct fermentation process has been followed and they have been dried out. They will keep in a common paper envelope for about 10 years without any special treatment. Working out when they are dry is a bit of an issue but suffice to say that a week on an open tray in dry conditions will do the trick.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are best harvested once the stalk has started to dry off. Then leave the pumpkin for a further 3 weeks, during this time the seeds will mature in the fruit and this period is critical for getting the best storage life out of a pumpkin. Scoop the seed out and rinse under running water to wash off any flesh. Spread them out on a tray and stir them every day to stop them from sticking to each-other. They are dry when they snap in half and don’t bend… 7-10 days typically. Store them in a paper envelope and keep them in the fridge for up to 7 years. Out of the fridge in a stable environment 3-5 years.

Cucumbers

Allow the fruit to over-ripen on the vine and scoop the seeds out into a jar. Double the volume with water and  ferment for 4-5 days. Dry seeds until they snap and store in an envelope in a dry place for up to 5 years.

Melons

Same as cucumbers, but there is no need to ferment them just rinse off with water and dry them.

Beans/Peas

Simple, let the pods dry off naturally on the plant. Shell the peas/beans, allow to dry for a further week or so and lightly tap with a hammer, if they mash… dry them some more. If they shatter, spot-on. Store in a jar or sealed container in the fridge/freezer for up to 10 years. The freezer is also good to kill off any gogga’s that may have laid some eggs on your beans..

Carrots.

Clean off the seed, no need to remove the ‘beard’ just dry them for a week or two and store in a glass jar in the freezer. They will keep for at least 5 years, like that.

Beetroot/Spinach

Both will cross with each other, so save seed from each variety every alternate year. They can also be dried out on a flat tray and then stored in a fridge for up to 5 years, after that they tend to lose germination every year. For beetroot and spinach it is very beneficial to soak the seed for 12 hrs before you plant the seed, as this will increase germination, especially after 3 years.

Corn/grains

Best dried out properly, they need to pass the ‘hammer test’ as described for beans and will store for upto 30 years in the fridge.

Peppers

Allow the fruit to ripen fully on the plant and then split the fruit to extract the seeds. Dry them on a plate until brittle and not easily dented by nail pressure. The seed lasts 2-3 years and is best stored in the fridge.

Onions

One of the weakest seeds for storage. 2 years is maximum and they need to be ‘refreshed’ every year.

Potatoes

Not really a common storage item but harvest the small tubers that look the best. DO NOT wash them and store in a cool dark place (Not in a fridge) until late august early September. It’s best to harvest a late crop (planted in Dec) and use those for germination in spring. They need a rest period to grow. 3 – 4 months will do it.

Garlic

Garlic is harvested in Nov and planted again in Feb-March. Follow the planting instruction on our garlic page on the shop.

General Seed Storage Tips.

1)      Store in a Cool place

2)      Sore in a Dry place

3)      Store in a Dark place

4)      Dry the seed properly before storage

5)      An even temperature in a dark cupboard is far better than a fluctuating temperate.

6)      A little Diatomaceous Earth will prevent bugs from attacking your seed. (beans, corn and grains especially)

7)      If storing in a freezer, do not open the container while the seed is frozen. Allow it to assume room temperature before opening the container. This prevents condensation settling on the seed.

One of the best books that you can purchase on the storage of seed is Seed to Seed by Susanne Ashworth, buy a copy there is a host of information available in this book.

BioSwirskii

Book Review


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This is a handy little book. If you have ever wondered how to propagte plants (not only vegetables) this book covers it all. I have been very impressed with this book and it really helped me with learning how to graft. It covers every aspect of propagation that I can think of. Interestingly it also teaches how to ‘de-hybridise’ plants which is a very worthwile skill to have if you would like to clean-up some of the varieties that you have.

It’s a good reference and well deserves a place in your gardening library.

BioSwirskii

The Edible Quote


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Weather means more when you have a garden. There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.

~ Marcelene Cox

BioSwirskii

Vegetarian Genetic Suicide


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DISCLAIMER: I am not a scientist, nor do I have any formal scientific training. However, I am blessed with the ability to read and make non-scientific assumptions.

An interesting discussion has taken place in my home over the last few days. Ever since we read the report GM SOY Sustainable? Responsible? we have been having a very good look at where and how we consume soy in our house. We have done an inventory of the few items that we purchase from stores and found that a vast majority have soy as an ingredient. We have now reduced our purchasing list again, either doing without or making it ourselves.

First a little synopsis on the above report for those that are not inclined to wade through a slightly technical read. (I found it riveting…. but that could be a personality defect) This report is possibly one of the most ground breaking and eye-opening reports that has come out about the disastrous and long term debilitating effects caused by GM infected food in years.

The report covers two things. GM (infected) Soy and Roundup (Glyphosate) from Monsanto. The two go hand in hand as one cannot consume any GM Roundup ready crop without consuming both components, the GM infected portion or the chemical Glyphosate. Soy is the ubiquitous add-in, filler, bulker and general protein supplement for food producers to add to their food. In addition there is a host of other by-products like Soy Lecithin and Soy flour that get added to most products.

Everything that we have been told to as to how bad GM foods are for us is probably only the tip of the iceberg. This Soy Report lists a host of results from tests on hamsters, mice and rats that were fed a diet of GM Soy or tests with concentrations of Roundup that were far below levels used in typical field applications as recommended by the manufacturer.

Here goes.

1)      Dilutions of Roundup corresponding to what would remain on crops after harvest (and on your plate) caused total human cell death in 24 hrs.

2)      Roundup residues at 800 times lower than what was found in typical animal feed caused human DNA damage.

3)      Roundup in concentrations far below agricultural use causes placental and embryonic damage.

4)      The study’s authors conclude that human reproduction and embryonic growth could be adversely affected by Roundup.

5)      Roundup is toxic and lethal to amphibians in concentration far below those typically used in agriculture.

6)      Roundup and AMPA (the stuff that Roundup beaks down to in the environment) causes irreversible DNA damage increasing the risk of human cancer. (As if we don’t have enough cancer causing issues already)

7)      Glyphosate (The main ingredient in Roundup) alters hormone levels and reduces the egg production in catfish.

8)      Glyphosate negatively affects many enzymes in the liver and intestines of rats.

9)      AMPA causes irreversible DNA damage.

10)   Glyphosate causes skin cancer.

11)   Glyphosate caused a 36% decrease in bird densities in area sprayed with Roundup.

12)   Mice fed GM infected Soy for 24 months developed ‘significant’ changes in their liver, pancreas and testes.

13)   Mice fed GM infected Soy showed increase aging of their liver.

14)   Several proteins (involved in liver function, stress response and calcium signalling) in the same GM fed mice were expressed differently to normal mice.

15)   Rabbits fed GM soy showed disturbance in how enzymes functioned in the heart and kidneys.

16)   Female rats fed GM infected Soy showed changes in the uterus and ovaries.

17)   In a multigenerational study using hamsters fed GM infected Soy, the hamsters had lost the ability to reproduce by the third generation.

18)   In the same study, the GM fed hamsters had slower growth and a higher mortality rate.

19)   GM infected DNA can be identified in the by-products of animals fed on GM infected foods. This includes meat and milk. The GM infected DNA is not destroyed by pasteurisation.

20)   GM infected DNA is transferred from mother to offspring.

21)   Live and viable GM infected DNA can survive passage through the human small intestine.

22)   GM infected DNA had transferred from food into the intestinal bacteria of humans (THIS IS SO WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS)

23)   GM Infected soy is less nutritious than normal soy.

24)   GM infected Soy had at least 12% less isoflavones (Cancer fighting compounds) than normal soy.

25)   GM infected soy has 27% more allergens than normal soy.

26)   GM infected soy crop yields are on average yields 9% less than conventional soy.

Quite a list isn’t it?

My personal opinion is that the people that peddle this stuff need to be personally subjected to a multigenerational test with GM infected foods. After 3 generations we will see if they have any interest in continuing with selling the stuff they so blatantly claim is no different from regular food.

Looking at the above list of conditions, disruptions, genetic damage and associated complications that are caused by GM infected food and the herbicide Glyphosate two things spring to mind. Firstly we are on a road to self destruction and secondly there is a pretty good case for a class action suit against the GM houses for genetic disruption to people.

OK, so now onto the title of my post. Vegetarian Genetic Suicide.

Vegetarians are an unusual bunch of eaters, They pose their particular brand of eating as the healthy option reciting reams of scientific fact as to why their form of eating is better for their health, environment and animals in particular. Now I don’t disagree at all with the above points. I will however propose a concern with ONE portion of the vegetarian diet, and it’s possibly the biggest concern and largest portion of their diets.

The impact of GMO on their diets, as well as the long-term impacts to their own genetics and that of their descendants. Now, I’m not a veggie basher, as I’m of the particular belief that people should have the right to decide how they live their lives. But please take the time to hear this argument because it’s not just directed at vegetarians but anyone that eats GM infected food. I also don’t believe this conclusion (presumption) has been raised before.

I believe that vegetarians are the one group of individuals that will suffer the most from GM Soy and GM infected food as they use soy, and soy derived products in a large part of their diets. Soy is the answer to the vegetarian’s protein needs, their milk needs, their TVP (Textured vegetable protein) hell almost anything can, and is made from soy. The biggest problem is that over 95% of the soy produced in South Africa is GM infected. This may not hurt the current generation of vegetarians, but their children and grandchildren are in for some very hard times.

Vegetarians aside, every one of us eats GM infected food every day. Every day you will be contributing to your own DNA disruption (or should that read destruction). Destroying your children’s future, reducing the chances of your children or grandchildren having a normal productive life and/or shortening their lifespan and quality of life.

There is another group of people especially in South Africa that are particularly susceptible to the effects of GM infected foods, they are low income earners that subsist mainly on maize meal (Pap) which forms over 50% of their daily diets. If all of the above is true (and I have no doubt it is) then what of the over 80% GM infected maize crop that we harvest annually to feed our nation. Are we going to start seeing health problems in the next few years that can only be attributed to GM infected foods?

What will the politicians say then? Eish… I don’t know…. But look at my nice car and house in Sandton.

As an aside, we had a bumper crop of GM infected maize last year, but neither the farmers nor the government can sell it anywhere in Africa because African nations won’t accept GM infected food, Saudi Arabia said thanks but no-tanks, and so did China, that leaves us with a white elephant that we can’t sell.

You as a consumer needs to take action! Speak to your store manager every time you go to the shop and demand GM labelling of food. Phone suppliers and demand GM labelling. Get onto the phone and bug your local political representatives, write to parliament and contact SAFeAGE to see where you can assist in the fight against GM infected food. If you can contact one person a week you can make a difference.

BioSwirskii

The Edible Quote


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“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible.”

~Phil Angell, Director Corporate Communications Monsanto

BioSwirskii

Keeping Heirloom Seed Pure (Part 2)


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One of the hardest seeds to keep pure is Corn or Mielies. Traditionally a staple South African crop that originated from the America’s, heirloom and Open Pollinated corn has now become more and more scarce and hard to source.

South Africa’s rich history of “mielie boerdery” has all but been destroyed by the large Agro Science companies with their hybrid and GM varieties, our own government has totally ignored the plight of subsistence and smaller farmers with their ill-considered thrust to supply this GM infected seed to small farmers throughout the country, destroying any traditional varieties via pollen contamination.

It is estimated that upwards of 80% of our annual mielie harvest is GM and you can be assured that if you are not growing your own you are certainly ingesting GM tainted food. This is especially true if you eat any grain fed meats, as these are predominantly fed with GM derived grains like corn and soya.

So how does one keep your OP or heirloom corn varieties pure? It’s a simple process as long as you follow a few rules and are aware of what your neighbours are planting.

The first and most important rule is stand size. Your planting cannot be less than 40 plants. This is the absolute minimum and double would be better. There is no way that one can effectively save seed from an OP variety with less than 40 plants. If you do, you will find that you have destroyed the genetic variation essential in heirloom and OP corn varieties that can never be recovered. Also with a stand size of less than 40 plants you will also find that a high percentage of your harvest will be poorly pollinated and kernels will be missing on the cob.

The next rule is that you should always plant your corn in a block, rather 8 rows wide and 8 rows deep, than planting one long straight row. As corn is wind pollinated the pollen is easily blown away if planted in a single row, whereas if planted in a block one plant will be able to pollinate the next few rows ensuring even pollination and maximum genetic spread.

Finally you will want to save seed for next year. Your best seed for seed saving will come from the centre of your block planting. This is seed that has the most pollen variation and the least chance of being contaminated by another nearby planting. Harvest a centre block of 3 or 4 rows for seed and use the outer rows for green mielies, or for grinding down as an organic mielie meal or animal food etc.

These three rules above if followed will ensure that you get a good harvest and ensure that your seed is genetically robust from year to year.

The next question is how does one plant more than one variety and still keep them pure? The answer is simple and very effective. Plant your stands of corn 4-5 weeks apart. This will give you an extended harvest of up to 4 varieties in a season and will allow you to plant and save pure viable seed from each one of these varieties. Bear in mind that a late planting will need at least 3 months to mature properly on the stalk, especially if you are saving seed that needs to dry out. Please note that using this method you will need to supplement watering during the dry periods.

Your biggest source of contamination (other than your own plantings) are what your neighbours are planting, as you will need to work around their planting / pollination dates.