Saturday, August 30, 2014

West Virginia's Most Famous Tomato - The Story of Radiator Charlie & The Mortgage Lifter

Earlier this spring we posted about the WV 63 tomato and what great heritage it has.  Little did I know that there is a second tomato - and a very famous one - that originated in the Mountain State. 

Growing up in WV I have always eaten the popular and flavorful Mortgage Lifter tomato.  It is a terrific tomato.  HEIRLOOM...LEGENDARY..HUGE...BEEFSTEAK.

According to  A Customer Favorite! "This huge heirloom beefsteak (up to 4 lb.; average 2½ lb.) consistently wins taste-tests. Developed in the 1930s by a gardener who planted the four biggest varieties he knew and crossed one with pollen from the other three. He did this for six seasons and created a variety that produced immense, tasty fruit. He sold the plants for $1 a piece and paid off his $6000 mortgage in 6 years." 
 Photo From Burpee
I learned this summer that the Mortgage Lifter has WV roots (pun intended)!  I love doing research and started checking the Internet for stories.  This tomato has HISTORY!   There are a lot of sites with information but a couple of the ones that I found particularly fascinating are linked below. 
In short, "Radiator Charlie" was from Logan, WV.  Marshall Cletis Byles was his real name and he owned a small truck repair shop at the bottom of a mountain in the Southern WV coalfields.  The mountain was well known for causing trucks to overheat and so his business was perfectly located. The trucks would overheat climbing the mountain and then roll right back down to his shop for the needed radiator repair.  Thus, he earned his nickname - although how Charlie got in the name is still a puzzle to me!
Byles was a gardener and took on the challenge of creating a large, meaty tomato that could feed an entire family.  The following is excerpted from

"He started with four tomatoes: German Johnson, Beefsteak, an unknown Italian variety, and an unknown English variety. Byles then grew plants from each variety and planted 3 Beefsteak, 3 of the Italian variety and 3 of the English variety in a circle. In the center of the circle, he planted the German Johnson Tomato.
With a baby syringe, he cross-pollinated the German Johnson with pollen from the other 9 plants in the circle. He saved the seeds, which he planted the following year. Byles then selected the best seedlings, and planted them in the middle of a circle, surrounded by the other seedlings. For 6 years, he repeated this process and cross-pollinated the strongest plants in the center with pollen from the plants in the circle.
When he was satisfied that he had grown a stable tomato that met his criteria, he sold the seedlings for $1.00 each, which was a hefty sum back in the 1940s."
The Tomato Geek lists the following characteristics:
Mortgage Lifter Tomato Characteristics
- Tomatoes are red and pink
- Tomatoes are amongst the most flavorful heirloom tomatoes
- Tomatoes are big and average 2 to 4 pounds
- Tomatoes start bearing fruit in about 80 days
- Tomatoes are on the meaty side
- Tomatoes have very few seeds
- Tomatoes produce an abundant crop
- Tomatoes are disease resistant
- Tomatoes will produce until frost kills the plant
- Indeterminate Tomato variety that will keep growing as a vine if not pruned
I read many Mortgage Lifter taste reviewsand whether or not people would grow it again.  The positives far outnumber the negatives.  The tomato grows very well here in WV and in hot southern states.  There are mixed reviews from northern states that have cooler temperatures, especially in the evening, and some of the western states like Utah that have sandy, desert type soil.  This tomato is not fond of cooler temperatures.    I have learned from my seed share growing experience this summer that very definitely that it is all about location, location, location! 
Most interesting though is the story titled "Mortgage Lifter" that I found linked on The Tomato Geek site on Living on Earth (an independent media program) by Jeff Young.  This is a transcript of an old radio talk show interview.  It's a wonderful historic tale.  Please take the time to read! You may also listen to the interview by clicking on the "play" button right under the title of the story and air date.  My favorite is the song at the end of the interview by Guy Clark titled “Home Grown Tomato” from ‘Keepers’ (Sugar Hill Records – 1970)
When I die don't bury me
In a box in a cold dark cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
Where I could be pushin' up home grown tomatoes
Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What'd life be without home grown tomatoes
There's only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and home grown tomatoes.
Another link to the interview can be found on Tomato Dirt.
We will definitely be sending some Mortgage Lifter seeds  to the Shirley Meniece conference.  Hope you are lucky enough to get a few.  If not, you may easily find this wonderful tomato on many of the seed savers groups.  Give it a try!
Please give us some feedback next year as to what you think of this great tomato with a West Virginia history! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Seed Collecting - Getting Ready Now for Next Year!

Whew! I am not sure I am ready for this!  And I am a little late in posting as many perennials have already gone to seed.   As my granddaughter said in the car this morning while I was driving her to summer day camp, "what has happened to my summer, it has gone by so fast.  School starts in 2 weeks."  She is only 6 but I couldn't agree with her more.  It has been a great summer with trips to the beach with part of my family and trips west to see the other part of my family.  But I will attempt to catch up.

Seed collecting is a huge topic and so many plant varieties out there.   First,  my disclaimer.  I am not an expert on this!  As we said at the beginning, this blog is an attempt to take the mystery and fear out of propagation by seed so that even beginners can join in and feel great about their accomplishments.

Each flower and vegetable is unique and requires a little research to find out what to do.  Fortunately, today the world is at your fingertips with the internet - the resources are tremendous!  Just search:  seed collecting, or seed collecting for *** (name your specific flower or vegetable).   And don't forget the old fashioned way - check out your personal gardening book library or your public library.   Some of my favorites are:  Making More Plants by Ken Druse, The Complete Book of Plant Propagation by Clarke & Toogood, The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation by Michael Dirr and Charles Heuser, Jr. and the absolutely necessary Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael A. Dirr.

GCA members have many references available on the GCA webpage, including several excellent articles in The Real Dirt:  #2, Fall 2004; #6, Fall 2006; and #27,  Summer 2013.  These can all be accessed through links on the Horticulture Page.  Again, search the internet--the resources there are phenomenal.  Click here for a basic quick 2 minute video.  Remember, be specific about your plant when you search.  In addition here is a site from the WVU Agriculture Extension Page.

From Barbara Tuffli, GCA Vice-Chairman of Seed Share in her Summer 2013 article:

How to collect seeds from your garden:

• Allow flowers and vegetables to go to seed
• Collecting seed at the right time is critical for successful germination
• Allow the seed head to ripen and dry, to the extent possible, on the plant
• As it ripens, cover the seed pod with a small paper bag or toe of a nylon stocking (tied in place) to catch any seed if the pod opens before you can get to it
• On a dry sunny day, just before the pods break open, and before the birds, squirrels or frost gets them, cut the seed pods off, placing each in a paper bag, or collect the seeds that have fallen into your bag or stocking.
• Carefully label the bag with the name of the plant (botanical name (genus and species) as well as common name), the date, where it was collected and any other important information such as the origin of the plant.

The advantages of seed sharing are numerous.  Number one for me is just the plain and simple joy of taking something I have grown, collecting the seed, planting and watching it come full circle.  Other advantages are:  saved seed will likely produce plants well adapted to your own micro climate; you can grow plants not always available commercially; you can trade with your friends, with your horticulture committee, with your garden club; you can send to Shirley Meniece or participate in other seed sharing groups. 

Now some overall basics: (Some repetition from above, but this is a summary)
  • Stick to species for flowers.  Seeds from hybrids do not always come true and are not always viable.
  • Woodland perennials can produce seeds in as short a time as 4-6 weeks, while others are not ready until late summer or fall.
  • Check your resources - learn to recognize plants and the signals they give out to show their readiness.
  • Carefully scrutinize your plants - sometimes daily, since seeds can ripen almost overnight.
  • Allow to ripen on the plant.
  • Harvest when ripe and before they have dropped on their own.
  • If the seed is encapsulated, the outside cover will turn brown.
  • Some species can be picked slightly early, put in a bag and allowed to ripen. Some examples are aster, stokesia, some types of black-eyed Susan, and coneflower. (I know my black-eyed Susans are ready as the goldfinches have been sitting on the tops of the flower heads eating away.  There will be more seeds ripening later for me to gather.)
  • Ripe seed is identifiable when the outer coating is somewhat hard to hard, and its color becomes (usually) tan, black or brown.
  • On some of your perennials you may tie nylon or cheesecloth around the developing seed head.  As the seeds ripen, they will fall into the cheesecloth, making an easy harvest.

When you are read to collect, gather your supplies first:  small envelopes, baggies, scissors, pen and labels if needed.  Collect on a dry day.  Clip the seed pods and put in your baggie or envelope.  Be sure and note the date collected and the species.  Once you get all those pods inside, it is very easy to forget which one is which if you don't take notes!

There are 3 basic types of seeds:  Dry; Fleshy Fruits; and Fleshy Fruits with Hard Fruit Walls.

For Dry Seeds:  Collect your seed heads.  One method is to put them into a manila folder and fold the folder in half.  Press on the folder to release the seeds.  Open and pour through a sieve to separate the chaff from the seed.  The chaff and heads stay in the sieve and the small seeds fall through. It is very helpful to put white paper underneath in order to see the seeds.  Some heads may need to be crushed again to release the seed - a rolling pin is a good item to use.  When you share your seeds, it is really nice to have clean seeds. (Most of your wildflowers & perennials)

For Fleshy Fruits:  Put the fleshy fruit in a sieve under running water.  Mash with a wooden spoon to separate the seeds from the flesh.  Scoop out the seeds.  Rinse lightly with detergent.  Put on a paper towel and dry thoroughly. (Examples: apples, pears, blueberry, rose hips,

For Fleshy Fruits with Hard Fruit Walls:  Soak the seed several hours, then drain.  Cover with paper and smash.  Scrape, rinse and add water to get the pulp off. (Examples are stone fruits like peaches and olives)

(Again, the above is a primer - do your research as the list is exhausting!)

An excellent online research article is from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center titled Seed Collecting and Storage.  And somehow, during an Internet search for photos of actual seeds showing their size I found this great Seeds site.  Seeds is a Flickr photo album site with hundreds of seeds artfully arranged around a dime in each photo giving you the true size of almost any seed you would want to find. 

All seeds after collection need to dry for several days in a cool, warm, well ventilated place.  If you live in a very humid climate it may not be the best thing to put them outside as you do not want to store moldy seeds!  Then put in brown manila envelopes (small coin envelopes are great).  Keep collected seeds cool.  Do not put in the freezer.  Seeds may be stored up to a year.  Be sure and label with the date and name of your species.  If something requires special attention, such as a long stratification period or scarification, be sure and note it.

This post will be our general post on seed collecting.  There will a second seed collection post where we will share our individual stories of collecting seeds. These will be seed share stories on plants that are not already being included in our journals.  Please continue to follow our journals for the full cycle  on tomatoes, poppies, hyacinth beans, amsonia, cleome and others.  For specific instructions on harvesting tomato seeds, check out both our Brandywine Pink page and the WV63 page.  Photos will be posted on both those pages.

The Adventure Continues - Collecting Tomato Seeds

Saturday morning - 7 am.  Today is the day to start saving the heirloom tomato seeds to pass on.  I want to do mine before the deer continue to pester my garden and I lose my tomatoes.  An elaborate set of fence posts and stakes now don my patch.

Links to directions for collecting seeds are on both the Brandywine Pink and the WV 63 pages, but I will link again here for easy access.  The directions on Collecting West Virginia '63 Tomato Seeds are excellent - prepared by the WVU Extension Service and include detailed photographs and step-by-step directions.  These are the directions I am following. The link above to Brandywine Pink is an excellent article written by Horticulture Specialist John Jett at WVU. He discusses the feasibility of seed saving, why not to collect hybrid seeds and contains other great information.

Let's begin!  Tools:  cutting board, knife, clean glass jars, labels and, of course, my tomatoes.  I have two Brandywine Pinks and a Mortgage Lifter from Buffy Sprout.  Pretty easy - all of 5 minutes once I have my tools ready.   Slice, squeeze, add water, label and done!  Remember to stir.
Saving the rest of the Mortgage Lifter to have on a tomato sandwich later on.

Tomatoes cut in half and
prepared jars.
Sliced Brandywine Pink
Brandywine Pink seeds in the jar

Water added to the jars.  Labeled each jar
with specific tomato variety and dated.
Very important to label & date!

Now to wait a few days and let the hopefully viable seeds sink to the bottom.  I wound up adding slightly more water to the jars to allow the "bad" seeds to float to the top. It is easier to scoop off the bad stuff that way.  The directions say to repeatedly add water, stir and pour off the top layer of water until only the viable seeds remain.  I will publish more photos as I do this.

August 20, 2014 (By WV Sprout)
Brandywine Pink seeds have a large amount of non-viable seeds. After much discussion with Barbara Tuffli, GCA Seed Share Vice-Chairman,  over problems with our Brandywine Pink seeds, we have decided not to save these.   More on this later after in a separate post.  Still waiting to see if anyone gets any Brandywines that have good taste and production.  We are reading lots of good articles on heirlooms, hybrids, cross pollination and will share links soon.   I have a fair amount of Mortgage Lifter seeds from a tomato shared by a friend that we will share. 

September, 2014
Seeds were collected from WV 63 and sent to 2014 Shirley Meniece Conference as well as saving a few for our group to try again next year.  They are a delicious tomato - the taste makes up for the small size!  Also sent a few of Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifters and a few Amish Paste.  I hope that anyone attending the conference will let us know next year how our seeds perform!

Seed Collecting - Member Stories of Seed Collecting from our Yards to Add to Seed Share

This page will be devoted to seed collecting stories by our membership of seeds other than the ones started in our seed share journals.   Please post your name and date and any photos when sharing your stories!

July 29, 2014 Posted by WV Sprout
Columbine (Aquilegia sp)  Columbines are one of my favorite flowers.    I have a lot of white ones in a shady moist area along my front path.   These are the ones I am harvesting and will share. They are mixed in with astilbe, bletilla, and omphalodes under two dwarf sargent crabs.  They are wonderful in shady woodland gardens.  They have relatively few garden pests and need minimal care. If they are happy, they self seed and show up in fun spots around the yard.  Although not invasive at all, they are easily pulled out if you have too many. After you’ve collected columbine flower seeds, the easiest way to grow them is to plant directly in the ground where you want them to grow. Plant columbine seeds late in the fall so they can germinate in the spring. The first year you’ll probably get only foliage, but by the second year your columbines will show a flush of blooms.   The three photos below are all photos I have taken through the years.  The one on the left is the state flower of Colorado (Colorado Columbine), (Photo 1) the one in the middle is the little white one from my yard (Photo 2) and the one on right is the small native columbine, Aquilegia canadensis. (Photo 3)

1 Colorado Columbine
2  White columbine in my yard for seed share
3 Columbine native to WV
I almost missed harvest time because of vacations.  But there were still pods to harvest with limited seed, but enough for 1 or 2 packets.  Photos below show the steps I took.  (Photos 4, 5, 6 & 7)

 4  This is one small pod from the plant.  The
columbine  stem will be tall  and
 branched with lots of pods like this.

5  Look closely at the base of the pod.
You will see one or two small dark seeds where I
slit open the side of the pod.  I did this to each pod.   If I
had not been so late with my collecting,  I could have cut
a branch, shook it, and harvested a large amount easily.


6  My finished stack of pods.

7  A container full of small seeds and
some chaff.  Next I will put it through a sieve
and wind up with a nice collection of seeds.

August 8, 2012 Posted by WV Sprout
Stokesia laevis  (Stokes' aster)
From  is native to wetlands, bottomlands, wet pinewoods, savannas and ditches mostly along the coastal plain from North Carolina to Florida to Louisiana. It is an evergreen perennial that typically grows to 1-2' tall. It features fluffy, cornflower-like, violet blue flowers (to 2 1/2” across), each with notched rays surrounding a pincushion center of feathery disk florets. Flowers bloom from early to mid-summer (sometimes with a fall rebloom) atop generally erect, leafy stems that rise from a basal rosette of lanceolate to elliptic, medium green leaves (to 6" long). Stem leaves are stalkless and smaller than basal leaves. Leaves are evergreen in warm winter climates.
WV Sprout experience: I am particularly attached to this plant.  Years ago, when Zone VII had an every other year zone hort meeting, I had the pleasure of attending one in the Raleigh-Durham area.  We could purchase seeds at the NC Arboretum that were collected in their gardens.  I purchased a small pack of Stokesia.  From my 6 plants that germinated I now have a very large bed of Stokes Aster. (Photos 8 & 9)  I love the blue color.  I originally would dead head.  Many years ago I decided to let self-sow.  Well, now I am pulling up plants and giving them away to friends every years.  I read with interest many of the comments on online gardening sites about difficulties with this plant.  Not in my yard!  The hardiness zone is more southern as the above states and I am in WV.  Zone 6 a few years ago, now Zone 6b.  I have a hot sunny south facing spot that gets moisture from a few natural springs in the hillside. So, it is wet in the spring and dry in the summer.   I would not recommend the plant in our mountainous areas as it would not be hardy due to the elevation, but in Charleston it will do just fine given the right conditions.  Hot sun, fairly poor soil, well drained but moist soil.  So, I will be sending seeds to Shirley Meniece definitely from this plant.  A wonderful butterfly, bee attractor! (Photos 10, 11, 12 & 13)
8  Stokesia in early summer in full bloom.
I love it!

9  Flower bloom in August.  S
till sparsely blooming which means more
 seeds to collect later. Not as intense blue
as the first flush earlier in the summer.

10  Seed heads forming.  Don't pick yet!

11  Wait - a little more patience needed.,
The heads need to close up slightly more
as the seeds are hard and not ready to pop out.
12  Here they are - the seed head has closed up slightly.
When you pull back with your fingers, the seeds practically
spring out.
13  Lots of seeds here as you can see.  This pod was a little past peak but still ok to use.  Lots of chaff with this one.  So, it is a little easier if you can catch it somewhere between the photo above and before the
seed head completely closes up like the one in the bottom photo. Easier to take a pair of tweezers and pick the seeds out.
Baptisia Australis (Blue Indigo)
Another garden favorite of mine, but this one appears that germination may be harder than collecting.  I would suggest that you read both of these articles before starting.
Here's a photo of the plant and flower. (Photo 14)   Also a photo of the pods and the large seeds that just fall out easily on their own. (Photo 15)  Baptisia is hardy Zone 3-10.  Most all of the gardening sites suggest 3 years before flowering. Blue Indigo is a native host plant for the following butterflies - Wild Indigo Duskywing, Eastern Tailed-Blue, Orange Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur, Frosted Elfin, and Hoary Edge; so definitely a benefit to your garden.  Baptisia does not like transplanting very well and also takes a while to become established, but once you have it you will really enjoy.  The seed pods turn black and are also great to use in flower arrangements. 
A challenge for those that enjoy the end result! Does anyone that has successfully grown these have comments?

14  Baptisia Australis in bloom.
15  Look how easily the seeds fall out.
 Too bad it is not as easy to start!
August 18, 2014
The Hort Committee, now chaired by KittySprout for the upcoming year, met for the first time for the 2014-2015 year.  Approximately 17 members came - all enthused and refreshed after great summer vacations with family.  Lots of catching up to do and sharing of vacation stories. 
16  Part of our luncheon were these WV 63 tomatoes
shared by Kitty Sprout
 All the members brought dishes to share and after a delightful lunch WV Sprout demonstrated how to save tomato seeds (photo 16) (saving procedure on a separate post just on tomato collecting) and Mamsprout gave a brief talk and demo on saving perennial seeds.  She brought lots of samples from her garden:  Marigolds, an unknown Aguilegia, Amsonia tabernaemontana, Lychinis coronaria, Nicotiana alata, Papaver somniferum, Shirley poppy, Baptisia (False Indigo), Acanthus spinosa (Bear's britches), and Kniphofia uvaria (red hot poker).  Spring Sprout brought hyacinth bean pods - she is the only one so far out of our group whose hyacinth beans have made it to this stage!  Another member brought Opium Poppy seeds from her yard. 
After showing the different stages of the plants and showing how to wait and recognize when the seed pod was ready, all left for home with seed envelopes, small bags of seed pods, seeds and lots of new knowledge.  Some will go to Shirley Meniece, some will be saved for our group to start the process over again next year.  (Photos 17, 18 & 19)
17  Mamsprout demonstrates seed collecting
to the Hort Committee

18  Seeds ready for labeling and putting in envelopes.
These are Lychnis coronaria seeds.  They were so ripe that when the seed heads were cut we quickly put into a clear baggie to catch the seeds as they fell out of the pod immediately. Lots of tiny seeds!

19  Many different seeds - Red Hot Poker in the foreground.
Another one where the seeds were so ripe they fell right
out of the pod into the baggie.
September 3, 2014
Patience and good eyesight should be added to the list of tools for seed collection!  I am certainly learning.  I love a good challenge and am finding seed collecting and the resulting propagation methods fascinating.  I have decided I never made it out of Jr. High School and science fair projects. 
If not for the Seeds site I found on Flickr and have also referenced on our sidebar under Seed Share blogs I would have saved the wrong thing.  The Seeds site is beautifully done with over 254 artfully arranged seeds arranged around a dime so that you get an accurate comparison of seed size. 
The other day I collected the seed heads of a wonderful Rudbeckia hirta that I have in my yard.  I bought one or two plants a few years ago.  The photo below shows them now.  Mine are on a south facing dry, clay bank and have multiplied like crazy. (Photo 20)  I am Zone 6b, but am able to grow some Zone 7 plants on this site.
20  Rudbeckia on my front hillside.  What a show!
  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower site classifies this as an annual.  The Missouri Botanical Garden site (linked above) states:
Biennial or short-lived perennial that is winter hardy to USDA Zones 3-7. It blooms in the first year from seed planted in early spring, and is accordingly often grown as an annual. It is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Best in moist, organically rich soils. Tolerates heat, drought and a wide range of soils except poorly-drained wet ones. For best result from seed in the St. Louis area, start seed indoors around March 1. Seed may also be sown directly in the garden at last frost date. Some varieties are available in cell/six packs from nurseries. Set out seedlings or purchased plants at last frost date. Deadhead spend flowers to encourage additional bloom and/or to prevent any unwanted self-seeding. Whether or not plants survive from one year to the next, they freely self-seed and will usually remain in the garden through self-seeding.
The goldfinch feed constantly on these flowers.  I had concerns that they might not save anything for me.  Between our rainy days I collected some very dry seed heads on Sunday.  (This is where the patience comes in as I have found I collect too early.  When the information says dried seed heads, they mean it!)  I put the seed heads in a gallon size Ziploc and left alone on my kitchen counter for a few days.  I emptied them onto a white paper plate today and noticed that there were two different small "things" that were on the plate.  Using my magnifying glass I could distinguish them apart.  Looking at the Flickr Seed site I was able to distinguish between the chaff and the seeds.  So, here I am today with my tweezers, picking the tiny seeds out and dropping them into my brown envelopes. (Photo 21)
21  Look closely.  Chaff and seeds are circled by the large blue line.
Within the two smaller circle are seeds.  Chaff is the longer skinny piece,
seed is the little short stubby piece.  You can see how dried the seed
head is. 

September 15, 2014
This morning I decided to work on packaging my fennel.  I grow the herbaceous fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and not the bulb fennel. I did a little research to try to find the difference between the bulb fennel to eat as a vegetable.  Florence Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum) is the type to grow if you want to harvest the bulbous stems to use as a vegetable. The leaves and seeds of this variety are also edible, so you get three uses in one plant.  Herb fennel is a tall perennial herb native to the Mediterranean. It has a sweet licorice taste, and is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine.  The seed is delicious in many things, great on pizza!

Fennel is indigenous to the Mediterranean shores but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.  **Note - I am not in either area but my fennel has returned now for 3 years, including last year's very cold winter with a lot of snow cover. 

My primary reason for growing fennel is that it is a host plant for the anise swallowtail - so look for seeds from my plant at the fall Shirley Meniece conference.  It is easy to harvest and collect and produces an abundance of seeds.

I started harvesting in August as the seeds ripen.  The easiest way to harvest as the seeds are small and prone to dropping when ripe is to cut the entire seed head and some stem off and drop upside down into a container.  Then the seeds will fall into the container.  As the head continues to dry additional seeds will fall.  I just continued to collect until now, then rubbed the heads some to get more seeds to drop.  Spread out on a piece of white paper and now will package.  You will get an occasional very tiny spider, but they will crawl right out of the seeds on the paper to try to escape.
(Photos 22, 23, 24, 25 & 26)

22.  Fennel plant in yard. A little
hard to photograph as it is so lacy and delicate.
Fairly tall - about 4'.
23.  Fennel seeds not quite ready to harvest.
Still yellow. 

24.  Ripe seeds.  The head is droopy now and
seeds  are brown.
25  Cut the seeds and put the entire head and stalk
upside down into a container.  The seeds will then just
fall on their own into the bottom as they continue to ripen.

26.  All of this from maybe just a dozen
cuttings.  Plenty left outside for the birds. 

October 20, 2014
It is 35° outside - time to get another seed collected.  My hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureus) are finally ready.  And this is the easiest one yet!  No work here. 

Our hyacinth bean stories may be found on 'Kitty's Litter' post. The hyacinth bean seeds should be collected before a heavy frost.  It is said that Hyacinth bean was introduced from Asia and North Africa in the 1700s and was grown at Monticello around 1817, thus earning it the additional name of the Jefferson bean.  The pods are 3-5" long and shiny purple, like patent leather.  Lovely.  The more moisture you have during the summer months, the more beans (seeds) inside the pods.  If you pick the pods when shiny the seeds inside will be green and not yet ready.  Wait until the pods are brown and dried and somewhat shriveled.  Just split the pods open and inside are 3-5 lovely black seeds with a white stripe on the side.  As there is a lot of moisture in the air today I will let the bean dry inside before putting away.  Legume seeds should breathe, so store in a cool place and preferably not sealed in a plastic bag.  Remember that hyacinth beans should only be eaten cooked as they can be toxic raw.  We will start these seeds indoors next year - remembering to plant in a larger pot than the seed starter trays that we used this year.  We will try to find something that can go straight in the ground as they do not tolerate transplanting well.  If using in a container try a large size peat pot or a deep paper cup that will disintegrate in the soil.  The seeds can also be saved and planted directly in the ground after the last frost date.

July photo of my bean climbing
the boy's old basketball pole.  By October
the backboard was covered and the beans
growing back down the pole.
Purple pod in the middle - not yet ready.
Brown & dried pot at top - ready.
Harvested seeds at bottom.