A new question came in on the wire this week:
“My crop of arugula has bolted / flowered. How do I get the seeds so I can store them and plant again next fall?”
I have fond memories of saving arugula seeds – my first seed-saving experience, in fact. It’s about as easy as it gets when it comes to seed-saving. Here’s how it works:
Your arugula will send up little white flowers with dark veins. It sounds like this part has already happened. Then little seed pods will form along the stem. These can be eaten fresh but beware, they are very spicy – they have a strong radish flavor. Next, the whole plant will start to turn brown. Cut off water at this point and let nature take its course. You may need to support the stems as they dry to keep them from falling over.
What happens next is up to you. Some people cover the stems with old nylon stockings or paper bags to catch the seeds as the pods open. I usually clip the stems and take the pods home when they’re ready. You’ll know they’re ready when you hear a rattling sound when you shake the pods. I hang them upside-down inside a paper bag for a week or so.
Then comes the fun part – threshing. If your seeds are in a bag already, you can shake the bag or stick your hand in the bag and crumble the dried seed pods. You’ll end up with a pile of tiny dark seeds mixed in with papery seed pod chaff. To separate this out, you can do it the old fashioned way, which is to put everything in a shallow pan and blow the chaff off the top of the pile. The seeds weigh more than the chaff, so they will stay put. Another way is to put them in a sieve that has holes bigger than the seeds, but smaller than the chaff and shake.
After you’ve separated out the seeds, you can store them in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator, labeled with the date and year (for posterity’s sake). Some folks store them in envelopes or jars. Either works as long as you keep them in a cool, dry environment.
By the way – you’ll have more arugula seeds than you’ll know what to do with when you’re done. Have a blast!
Does anyone else have a favorite seed-saving technique they’d like to share? Post it here.