Archive for June, 2010

There seem to be lots of articles out there about how to save seed once you get fruits, but a lot is lacking about the more important (to me) subject of keeping the seed pure. While not entirely necessary, especially if you don’t grow a lot of varieties that will cross-pollinate, using this technique will insure the seed you save will be true-to-type.

This easiest and least costly technique is called “bagging.” This is simply putting a cloth bag over the flower truss to keep insects from cross-pollinating your tomatoes or peppers. Tomatoes are self-pollinating. That means that the flower is constructed so cross-pollinating by wind is very difficult. But insects can still reach in to the flower and carry foreign pollen around. So the bag simply keeps those insects out!

If you don’t bag your flower trusses, there will always be a chance of impure seed, anywhere from 5 to 50%. So if you are growing a very rare hierloom plant and want to guarantee pure seed, go ahead and bag. It’s super easy.

This year is the first year I’ll be bagging any of my varieties. Since tomato seeds are viable for 3-5 years (if stored properly), saving seed every year is not necessary. So since I didn’t save seed last year, I’ll bag and save this year for fresh seed.

I started with a very thin white and blue cotton ticking fabric. I decided to use this fabric because I could easily breathe through it–the tomatoes might appreciate being able to breathe through the bag too. I cut double squares out about 7″ x 8″. I’ll be making 12 bags today though I have a little fabric left if I want more next year.

The bags are cut out and ready to be sewn.

Next, I started sewing. I made a larger hem at the top to thread a ribbon through. And I sewed the sides and bottom. This can be done with a serger tons faster, but I decided to sew on the sewing machine today. I actually used a very old technique: I sewing wrong-sides-together first (very narrow) then turned right-sides-together and sewed the seam again (wider). Then turn right-side-out for a finished bag with no raw edges. I’m making these bags to last!

The first bag is finished.

Here is the same bag with drawstring pulled.

Very nice! You can see how a tomato truss will fit in there easily.

All 12 bags are finished, yea!

And now for a demonstration of them in action:

Find yourself the first tomato flower truss on the variety you want to save. In this example, I’ve pictured my first and only tomato flower truss with the flowers already open. Don’t bag trusses like this one! Pick trusses with flowers that are not open yet, such as the ones I circled:

Pick trusses that have flowers unopened, like those I circled.

Gently place the bag over the truss and pull the drawstring closed. The bags are bigger than necessary to allow fruit to start to grow inside.

See the flowers in the bag? Those seeds will be pure!

When the fruit begins to grow, you can be assured you will have pure seed inside those tomatoes. When the tomatoes start to outgrow the bag, take the bag off and mark the truss with colorful ribbon or surveyor’s tape. Then save seeds from the marked ripe tomatoes.

If you aren’t handy, just buy some party favor bags made of tulle or organza. These come in festive colors (I’d stick to neutrals unless you want to attract more insects!) and are pretty inexpensive per pack.

These are a generous 8″ x 12″ and are cotton, both of which would be great for peppers (just put the bag around the whole plant).

Or these are about 5″ by 4″ and are extremely inexpensive for 12.


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Yum! Italian-style pasta salad with broccoli raab, ham and beans.

This is a very easy recipe that is very versitile for including garden ingredients. It is a fail-proof salad that will have you making it again and again!

8 oz elbow macaroni, or shape of choice such as ziti
1 cup chopped broccoli raab (or swiss chard stems, or celery, or regular broccoli, or green beans, or pea pods, etc)
1/2 cup dried pinto beans, cooked (or 1 15 oz can of beans, drained)
1 cup diced ham
1/4 cup prepared Italian salad dressing
1/4 cup mayonaise
1 tbsp prepared mustard
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs
salt and pepper to taste

Boil a pot of water and put the pasta in to cook until just past al dente. Meanwhile, chop the veggies and meat. Boil a separate small pan of water to blanch the broccoli raab. Blanching will help get rid of the bitter taste, if you’re not a fan. Boil the vegetable 1 to 2 minutes, then drain.

Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, beans, vegetables and meat and stir. Then add the remaining ingredients and stir some more. Taste and adjust seasonings. (I always add salt because I use dried beans boiled with no added salt.) Put into the fridge (or freezer if you’re in a hurry) and wait until chilled to eat.

Serves 6 (1 heaping cup per serving)

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