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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Save your own seeds - basil, coriander and dill

Basil, coriander and dill are annuals, parsley is a biennial which  flowers in its second year of growth.

Basil seeds are ready to collect when the spikes turn brown and dry out.  Don't worry about the seeds dropping out - they are well attached, and actually need quite a lot of rubbing to free from the dead flower heads. 

With both coriander and dill, to get the best seed for sowing in future years, pull up and discard the earliest plants to bolt, and only save seed from those plants that produce plenty of leaf and flower late.   It is best to plan to save seed from early summer sowings, to allow plenty of time for the seed to mature and dry on the plant.   Harvest as soon as the seed is brown and dry, as it does tend to drop from the seed heads.  Rub the heads together in your hands over a bucket to free the seed.  Dill seed usually comes cleanly away from the seed heads.  Coriander seed tends to contain more chaff, but you can winnow it by pouring gently from one bucket to another in a light breeze if you want to clean it for kitchen use. 

To save parsley seed keep some plants aside till next spring when the plants will start to flower and produce seed.   Flat and curly leaved varieties will cross, as the flowers are insect pollinated, so you should only grow one type for seed at a time or use an isolation cage.  Harvest the seeds from individual flowerheads as they dry and turn brown, as they tend to drop from the plant when ready. 

Your harvested seeds will all keep for three years if stored in a cool and dark place.

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