Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Saving Carosello Seed

Previously,  I had mentioned how you can tell when a carosello melon-cucumber is ripe. Since then, I have noticed some additional ways to ensure that I am able to save seed when the fruit is ready. Here is what to look for and how I save seeds:

1. Using your eyes: Watch the fruit color. As it ripens, the color of the carosello fruit changes. While still on the vine, I notice that the green color fades away and is replaced by white, yellow or other faded colors.

Tondo Barese - Unripe for eating, White and ripe for seed saving.

This Tondo Barese turned from green to yellow when ripe.

2. Be patient: If possible, leave the fruit on the vine until it slips off. Not all plants are left alone by insect pests or other factors that allow it to live to fully develop the fruit. Though this can be frustrating, if even this fruit is left on a little longer to develop seed then the seed may be able to be preserved. If a disease part of the plant, it can be cut off to let the fruit continue to develop. Any disease that can be transmitted requires immediate disposal of the plant, but I have had very little problems with this when compared with tomatoes. Ideally, leave the fruit on the vine until the fruit slips off the vine or when the plant no longer supplies energy to the fruit such as when the vine dies of old age.

Fruit "slips" from the vine when it comes off with minimal effort


3. Breathe it in: Along with the fruit slipping off the vine, you should also begin to smell a sweet fragrant melon smell. This is indicating that the fruit is becoming ripe. Even if you don't smell this, sometimes the smell will develop while the fruit is in storage.

4. Storage: Leave the fruit in a dry cool place. If you have a lot of fruit in one place, check each daily to ensure they are in good condition. I love the smell of the ripening fruit.

5. Is it Ready yet? Press each ripening fruit. As the seeds mature, they continue to feed off of the fruit until the fruit begins to deteriorate. The main indicator that the fruit is deteriorating is that the fruit does not maintain its form when pressed by the fingers. Gently, but firmly, press the ripe fruit. Does it go back to its original shape or does the flesh become indented with your fingerprint? Sometimes you can also determine the amount of deterioration in the fruit shaking the fruit. If the fruit makes a slushing sound as you shake it, then the fruit is definitely ripe. Slushing means the seeds need to be harvested right away before they begin to sprout.

Check fruit often- over-ripe fruit will begin to rot quickly

6. Cutting and Rinsing: Once I have a soft fragrant fruit, then I harvest the seeds by cutting just far enough into the fruit to cut to where the seeds are. I cut all the way around revealing a dome, each with a cavity of seeds. I scoop out the seeds with a spoon. If I time it right, the seeds have had as much time as possible to develop into viable strong seeds, but have not been kept in the fruit too long so that they begin to sprout. Rinse them with water in a colander and put them on a plate to dry.

Small yellow fruit

Large white fruit

Notice the pulp is beginning to break down and become translucent

Notice the pulp is mostly broken down already.

The coating around the seed should be gone and the pulp should easily separate.

Though the yellow fruit has less seeds (left), the seeds on the left were better pollinated.

7. Winnowing and sorting: Once the seeds are dry, I often find that 30-60% are not of a high enough quality to keep. I winnow the seed by using a fan, the outside wind or by just gently blowing on dried loose seed. The light and thin seed will move away from the rest and separate from the original seed while the heavier thicker seed will remain. I then remove any strange looking seed that is humpbacked or deformed. Fruit that is poorly pollinated or is not allowed to ripen completely will produce less viable seed. Pictured below are two piles of seed from a carosello that was poorly pollinated in a greenhouse.

White fruit after winnowing: Seeds to compost (left), Seeds for saving (right)

Seed Storage: The remainder of the seed should be kept for long-term storage in a cool dry place. Though I previously advocated freezing seed, the drying process involved can often lead to seed mortality (over-drying). Currently, I am refrigerating much of my seed, though still considering some seed for longer-term use.

Your experiences are welcome: If you have saved Carosello seed in the past, tell me your experience and let me know what I may be missing from my little guide here. 


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