Saturday, July 14, 2012

Processing Carrot Seed



Some gardeners prefer to buy seed from the store year after year. I prefer to save myself money by harvesting  as much seed as I can, including carrot seed. Once the stalks of carrot plants are dry and the seeds are brown, I then come around the stalks to harvest them.

Harvested Carrots in a Pot

Because carrots are outbreeding plants, it is recommended to have at least 12-20 plants to keep the seed strong. As I harvest the seed for a particular trait, such as color or root thickness, I keep the seeds of plants with desirable traits from the seeds of undesirable plants. In this way, I seek to slowly shape my carrot variety into something that I want them to be.

Carrot seeds in a dry, well-ventilated place

After harvesting the seed I keep it in a well-ventilated dry place to keep the seed stalks from molding. It only requires a few days of wet seeds to have them mold.


Some Carrot Processing Material.

When stalks are dry, use a comb or other method to remove the seeds.

Combing Seed out of the stalk works pretty well

Carrot seeds are very hairy. The first time I harvested carrot seeds I didn’t worry about the small hair. However, when planting the seed, the hair can make the seeds difficult to handle. They tend to cling to each other which tends to waste seed.


Hairy seeds tend to stick together

To remove the hair, rub the seeds through screen that is slightly larger than the seed. This will separate the hair from the seed. Both will end up falling into whatever container you have below the screen.

Seperating the hairs from the seed via rubbing through a screen

To separate the seeds from the hairy mess, take a handful of seed and hair mixture to winnow away the small hairs and the other small material by using a fan or blowing away the hair with your mouth (as pictured).

My lovely picture demonstrates my method for winnowing seed

What is left after winnowing is the usable seed and a few other small branches you can pick out, if you desire. Home-harvested seed may not be as clean as from a seed catalogue but the quality of the seed can be much greater when harvested when the seed is completely grown.

Finished Carrot Seed

13 comments:

  1. Wow that is an amazing process for these wonderful seed.

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  2. Very interesting! We just (successfully) planted carrots in the garden for the first time this year. They were an incredible hit - the kids beg for them every day. We certainly won't have any left for seeds this year, but it's fascinating to see the process!

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    1. It is well worth saving the seed, as long as your season is long enough. They are definitely a biannual when it comes to saving the seed.

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  3. very nice post... i think too that your own seed are better then bought one... some seed may grow somewhere with different climate then uk... after few year you will see the different...

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    1. Thanks for the reply, Enrico!
      It is great fun and rewarding to save your own seed.

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  4. I love your blog and all the information you provide. I am trying to start a garden for the fall so I can feed my family fresh vegetables. I have tomato plants inside that are approximately 5 inches tall. I also have bell peppers that are around 2 inches tall. Are the tomatoes going to die if I plant them outside in two weeks?

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    1. Dear Rich,
      Where in the world are you posting from? I could tell you my experience from Tucson (desert USDA Hardiness Zone 9a) but that may not help where you live. Even within Tucson there are microclimates depending upon your geography, what plants are in the area, and the composition of your soil.

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  5. Sorry Jay. That is information you might need to answer my question. Ha Ha. I am in Tucson on the NW side. I am starting a raised garden bed and I'll be buying soil from the big box store. So soil quality shouldn't be too much of a problem. I figured I will need to have a shade cloth over the plants if I put them in the ground in two weeks.

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    1. Dear Rich,
      Thank you for that information. Depending upon the size of your garden you may want to go to Sierra Mining company. They sell the best quality compost for the price - as long as you have a truck to haul it in. You can find them at: http://www.sierramining.net/materials/index.htm

      Another very helpful organization is the Tucson Organic Gardeners, who meet every 3rd Tuesday September through April. Honestly, I have had limited success with tomatoes- but all the success I have has come from some research and experience. On the right side of my blog, if you click on "Tomatoes" it will take you to a series of posts. Most of what I know about growing tomatoes in Tucson is contained in that blog post. Other pointers can be had by clicking on "Tucson" in my little subject area headings on the top right of my blog. I would probably never do a raised garden bed for multiple reasons having to do with our climate, but a raised bed may work best for you if you have back problems, etc.

      That all being said I'll do my best to answer the question you initially asked me. Should you have a spindly 5 inch tall tomato plant it probably won't last more than a few hours in this heat. However, if the plant stalk is very thick and the plant has a large pot and heavy foliage you should be okay. That being said, I have never experienced any form of success when exposing my tomato plant to the late-afternoon sun. After 1 pm the sun cooks it. If a fruiting plant receives sun until 1 and are shaded after that, that is enough sun to produce plenty of fruit. Another thing that will cook the plants is if they are near any large structure. Radiant heat can kill a plant directly, or by weakening it enough to become diseased.

      I hate to sound pessimistic, but it is important to recognize what obstacles you have to face before starting a gardening project. Tomatoes are extremely difficult in Tucson because most varieties prefer temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees. This is a great time to plant some things that do well in this climate like cucumber-melons, zucchini or beans. With tomatoes you are always taking the risk that you may be going through many plants with the rewards of only a few cherry-sized tomatoes in November. Peppers are more heat tolerant and have less disease issues than tomatoes – so I would recommend trying them first. All the same rules for tomatoes usually go for peppers – except don’t try burying the stalk of the pepper plant deep in the soil. (=

      I hope this helps somewhat. It is much easier to start small and succeed then go big and fail.

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  6. Your information is very helpful. The garden I am planning is small just 4x8. Good thing I have the peppers growing too since it doesn't look like my tomatoes will survive this time of the year! And I am going to get the cucumbers and beans in the ground soon. I will check out Sierra Mining for the soil. Thank you very much for the information.

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    1. No problem, Rich. I'm apologize for how long the post was.

      There is a reason why my blog is called "scientificgardener". Gardening in Tucson is often met with failure. The more you know about the climate, the limitations of the environment, and plants you are seeking to grow - the more likely it is that you'll succeed.

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  7. Wow. I haven't ever thought that you can collect carrotseeds. Now I know.

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    1. Thank you for the reply Sadun. I hope this post was helpful. (=

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