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)