Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Malabar Spinach seed saving--- this might get a little messy (Don't forget to comment for the seed GIVEAWAY)

I was interested in documenting my malabar seed saving, as the seed is encased in a small dark purple-black fruit seed coat and wondered how involved it would get. The answer: PRETTY FREAKIN' INVOLVED.

I originally intended to just let the seeds dry out in their fruit, as I read could be done, but the chances of the fruit molding, or going bad and thus turning the seed bad was too great and I wanted to be sure the seeds were in good condition, so I decided to scrub the juicy fruity bits off.

On an earlier day, I picked a small, but plentiful basket full of malabar spinach berries(?):

(berries are tiny and encased in each is a seed)

I then took out the colander and a larger metal bowl to capture anything that might get washed out of the colander because I didn't want to lose a viable seed.

Remembering having heard that the fruit is a well know vegetable dye, and having many plain white rags around that I use for cleaning which my Aunt Louise gifts me every time I see her (Thanks Aunt Louise!), I decided to experiment and place one of the cleaner not stained rags under the colander so that all the fruit juices/dye would splash on and dye the rag, hopefully a rather pleasing purple-y color.

Yep, that's a really purple-pink (magenta I suppose?) color! I ended up getting another rag to dye  partially because my hand was beginning to get a wee bit raw from scraping fruit against the metal colander holes. Kind of like a grater. I swear no bits of my fingers will be in any requested seed packets!

Mmmmm, fruit flesh encrusted rag! But it gives you a good idea as to the color of the dye. I did have to add and swish water around to be able to move the fruit/seeds in the colander well, but the color was still pretty strong I think.

The other reason for the water was this:
The separated fruit fleshy bits float to the top so I can easily extract it from the seeds that sunk to the bottom of the colander. I attempted to use a spoon to scoop up the floating fruit bits, but ended up just tipping the bowl gently to allow the bits to drain away. The entire process was similar to panning for gold I'd say, though I haven't done that since I was 6 years old... and I think I might have been just pretending to pan for gold too after I read about it in a book on the 49ers...

Here I am still in the process of rubbing berries between my fingers and hands in the bowl to separate the seeds from flesh still.
Eventually, after doing this for a good while, and dumping the fruit flesh a couple of times after swishing with water, I am getting some clarity and the good seeds are at the bottom of the bowl. Any seeds that floated to the top were probably unripe or not viable for germination, so I allowed them to follow the fate of the fruit flesh, DOWN THE DRAIN, I mean, INTO THE COMPOSTER!
When I got everything clean enough, I dumped the seeds into the colander for a final swish and mini-scrub to make 'em squeaky clean.

I have an admission to make.... I have never dyed anything before and as I was sort of doing everything last minute and was feeling too lazy to do some real research I gleaned everything I could remember from my "wish I was a frontier girl" days (about 7 years old at that time, Little House on the Prairie and all that rot) and I chucked the malabar fruit colored water and rags into a pot and cranked the stove on high because I vaguely remember dying had something to do with boiling water. I added vinegar for good measure and realized later that maybe I was thinking of Easter eggs :(

Either way, after a while I turned off the pot of dye+rags and let it cool on its own before I let the rags drain of some of the water dye and then hung them on some metal, grated, sunroom furniture to dry.
(Note: Once dry, the color of the rags are just a bit lighter than this color and more PINK than mauve. Which I am not a huge fan of... I am thinking of attempting to try as little water as possible for the next batch of seed saving because dangit, I am NOT a pink fan. Gimme some royal purple baby).

Here are all the seeds I set out to dry on my dining room table on some newspaper... on some nice white table cloth (brill right?) Eh, tablecloths are meant to be used and abused. I would have loved to put them in a really sunny spot, but it was sort of cloudy that day/ rained later.
It appears that one of the seeds decided to sprout, possibly within its fruit coat! I sincerely doubt it was during its bath while I was handling it.
So, that was my seed saving adventure... and there's a whole heck of a lot more seeds to save... so, um, please, take them off my hands?

(UPDATE: I realized that I had forgotten to re-read this post before I sent it and there were a million grammatical and spelling errors, so my apologies... very sleepy when written)


Ginger said...

this is fascinating. not having grown spinach, I would have thought the seeds would be more like lettuce seeds.
how cool that you used the liquid for dye!

persephone said...

Hi Ginger! This isn't really a true spinach, malabar spinach is a tropical and my replacement for true spinach-spinach because I have found it to be TOO much work. Real spinach seeds actually are hefty like the malabar spinach and not dainty as lettuce seed is.

The dying thing (ha, makes it sound like I kicked the bucket) was fun, but sad for me in the aspect that I just don't like pink... I'm a tried and true red girl :) Red amaranth and cockscomb makes a good red dye I hear...

Ayisha said...

Hey Stephy!
Any seeds left to give away? I'm loving your blog--definitely learning a lot! We attempted a garden this year and I'm pretty sure the squirrels had a feast day when the shoots started coming up. Ah well, better luck next summer, right? :o)

persephone said...

Hey Ayisha! Glad you're enjoying the blog :) I have PLENTY of seeds to giveaway, oddly, and sadly, no one really has been responding..

But if you like, please email me your address to my address listed in my profile here or you can go via facebook or whatnot :) as soon as you send it to me I'll send the seeds off!

Aubade said...

This is amazing! You are a trooper for sure. I found this post b/c I have my own malabar spinach growing and was wondering how to save the seeds. I only have a few purple berries though. I love that you used it for dye too...

persephone said...

Hi Aubade!

(Love the name btw!)

I have been saving this seed like mad b/c from only 2 packets of seed, I have about 50x or more of that original amount now and that makes for easy gifts :)

My second try, which I may post a couple of pics of, I used less water (for conservation partly) and the color was much more exquisite, a very vibrant purple. Unfortunately it's drying now and I will have to very gently wash it and hope that purple stays!

Kelly said...

Hi there! Found this blog looking for a way to clean my seeds - lol. Guess there's no easier way, huh? I bought one plant this spring and had volunteers all through the garden. I cut it back when the heat of summer hit and it looked dead. Didn't pull the roots and wouldn't you know as soon as it started to cool off the bugger came back full speed ahead! It's a great plant to grow as an ornamental, but the leaves are good eatin' too. I'm psyched because I can have spinach when traditional spinach won't grow here in the desert.

ecanarensis said...

Great post! And as for "I am NOT a pink fan. Gimme some royal purple baby," ME TOO! I was thinking of trying to dye something with the malabar'd the second attempt work..purple enough? I've tried using blackberries, but they only seem willing to put stains on shirts I don't want getting blackberried; dying a whole shirt just would not work :-(
Great pix! Although my hands were getting tender just're one tough lady.

Lisa said...

Oh wow! Great post. I'm growing 1 malabar spinach plant this year and I'd like to save seeds, but I'm thinking I should probably have planted more than one to save seeds from a variety of plants. I remember hearing that you shouldn't save seed from just one plant. Eh, I'll probably try it anyway. I juiced some elderberries earlier this season in my breville juicer and the seeds and fruit separated nicely in the machine. I think I'll try that will some malabar berries to see if the seeds come apart easily. I'll let you know if it works. - Lisa at