How to Save Mustard, Kale, and Turnip Seed

Are you growing (or planning to grow) mustard, kale, or turnips?

Did you know it’s easy to save your own seed?

SevenTopRiver

Seven Top Turnips going to seed spring 2013
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Snarky Mustard going the seed fall 2013

Mustard, kale, and turnips basically all go to seed the same way. When they get stressed (hot weather, etc) or are overwintered, these plants send up stalks and put out flowers. These flowers are beautiful and functional, as they bring beneficial insects to your garden.  Once the stalks are produced (also called “bolting”), the leaves themselves become bitter as the plant puts its energy into getting busy (cue the Barry White music) reproducing.

MustardPods
Mustard flowers and pods

The seed is ready to collect once the stalks turn brown and dry out. Unfortunately, the pods don’t all dry out at once, with the ones closer to the base of the plant going first. If you wait until they are completely ready, some seed will escape onto the ground and you’ll have babies starting before you know it. This is a good thing if you are trying to get a perennial supply of yummy greens. Not so good if you have plans for that area in the form of other crops. But, as I always say, edible weeds are better than inedible weeds.

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Dried out stalks stuffed into a plastic trash bag

The best system I’ve found so far to collect this type of seed is through the use of garden cutters and trash bags. Just snip below the pods and put the top into the bag. This way you can squish and crush up the pods in the bag and have the tiny little seeds fall to one corner. Cut the corner tip as small as you can and release the seed. You will get some chaff (fancy word of the day) but only some, not all.

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Cut the tip of the bag to release just the smallest parts – seeds and some chaff
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Seeds and chaff
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Tip the container to collect the seeds to one side and pick out the other stuff

If all goes right, you can put the separated seed into a holding vessel (like this glass jar pictured below).  Once there, you can shake it to force the lighter chaff to the top for more removal.  You could also use a screen to sift out the extra material.

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The finished product

Good luck and happy gardening!

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