toasting seeds for home and garden

Well, no gardening today, obviously.012901

I had to set the alarm for the dog so he wouldn’t sleep in until 10:30 like he did yesterday, and woke up to a winter wonderland….. I’m not one of those people who thinks that snow on the garden in January is “moisture”. I just shoveled a whole bunch of moisture off the driveway; that was fun. The dog stayed inside and watched.

There are moments in my life when actual work is performed and things get done, and today was going to be one of them, but work might be delayed because of the snow. I have seeds to sow. (This has no effect whatsoever on my desire to buy plants.)

Most of the seed is sown in pots which are set outside, so that the seed can germinate on its own. This is called vernalization. I showed a picture of the (portable) seed frames here. I spent some time screening squeegee the other day for the cactus seed. I guess this needs an explanation.

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sieve over paint bucket; it almost fits perfectly

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squeegee; I don’t know why it’s called that. same stuff they spread on roads. it needs to be screened because some of the particles are too large.

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ideally, the particles should be the size of those in upper right, but I bet someone got lazy and let bigger ones, like lower left, get through.

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the seed mix, which varies, but usually equal parts screened peat moss, perlite, and sand, is moistened from below, then seeds sprinkled on top. seeds visible in far right pot.

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topping of squeegee–about 1/16 of an inch–sprinkled on, pressed down lightly, and watered using a watering can with a fine rose.

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most of the seeds go into these B.E.F. polypropylene Grower’s Pots, which I’ve had for 25 years

The other technique I use, sometimes, is stratification, which I talked about here and is a complete pain in the posterior, but sometimes there is no other choice. Apparently this is true for the seed of Ceanothus velutinus, which first needs its hard coat to be cracked in some way, then a period of stratification is required. In the wild the cracking is accomplished by fire.

One of the ways suggested to crack the seed coat, aside from fire, is scarification, rubbing the seed on sandpaper until the endosperm is exposed. I’m not going to do this. Cindy liked doing this; it was just the sort of microscopic work she enjoyed, but the last time I tried it the seed got crushed and flew all over the kitchen. People like me who are entering their Declining Years have no time for such nonsense.

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seed of Ceanothus velutinus, about twice actual size

The Forest Service has a data sheet on Ceanothus velutinus which says temperatures of 176 to 203 degrees F. will break the seed coat, before stratifying the seed. It didn’t take me very long at all to realize that I knew exactly how to do this.

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Note the appearance of the pan. This pan has but one purpose, to toast the seeds that go into making various masalas. (Cindy liked Indian food so I cooked a lot of it.)  A spatter guard helps keep the popping seeds in the pan. Seeds are toasted, put on a plate and allowed to cool, and then ground.

This is one highly evolved spice rack. I’m about to get carried away here. This is food, after all.

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Filled with all sorts of things.

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mango powder (amchoor)

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black salt (kala namak)

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asafetida powder (hing)

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black cardamom (kali elaichi)

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edible camphor (kafura)

black cumin (kala jeera) left, what's called black cumin but isn't, right (kalonji, nigella seed)

black cumin (kala jeera) left, what’s called black cumin but isn’t, right (kalonji, nigella seed)

Where was I? Oh, something about ceanothus. The seed can be germinated by sowing it outdoors, too. The percentage of germination is very low. The outdoor method works for a number of species whose germination requirements are said to require heat from fire (like Romneya coulteri). The action of freezing and thawing does the work.

I’ll report back on the toasting method in a couple of months. Assuming, that it, that I don’t grind the seed by mistake.

P.S. 10-16-13. Dear Indian cooks doing a search on kala jeera: namaste. The labels in the last picture are correct. Black cumin is from Bunium bulbocastanum and is called kala jeera or shahi jeera. Kalonji is sometimes called black cumin but it’s from a totally unrelated plant, Nigella sativa.

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6 Responses to toasting seeds for home and garden

  1. I toasted seed for the first time this winter based on a propagation protocol for Arctostaphylos patula. (Gee, another broadleaf evergreen of Western open coniferous forests, I think I see a pattern) It leaves one feeling at once clever and very, very silly. Feelings will clarify after the outcome resolves…

    Thanks for amusing blogs, as always, sir!

  2. Susan ITPH says:

    I’ve been using Utelite for a top dressing. I hate screening rock. Life is too short. Also, I resent seeds who need a warm period first, especially when I forget to just sow and set outdoors in the fall. Sometimes these plants are more trouble than the kids, and that’s saying something.

    • paridevita says:

      There is one benefit to squeegee screening; I use the larger particles to resurface troughs. Quite a few of the troughs here have sheets of styrofoam set diagonally so that the large rocks on top have something to perch on. The styrofoam gets exposed all the time, and doesn’t look so great.

  3. Ricki Grady says:

    I’m salivating over those well-stocked spice shelves.

    • paridevita says:

      Food is nice. The massive accumulation of spices was due to a constant demand for Indian food, mostly in the form of vegetables of one sort or another. “More vegetables!” she would shout, and at the end of a week or so of this vegetable love, toasting and grinding spices and chopping vegetables and frying dried hot red chilies in oil, coughing and cooking at the same time, there would be a tiny voice whispering in my ear, saying “Take me out for a hamburger”.
      I still do a lot of cooking. In fact, I made chicken with fenugreek about five days ago…frozen fenugreek leaves…and have been reeking of it ever since. Not a bad smell, like maple syrup really, but pervasive.

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