Cultivated at the Ozarks farm of Jere and Emilee Gettle—along with a brilliant array of vegetables, fruits, and flowers—is an appreciation for nutritious food grown according to time-honored methods. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, the heart of this 176-acre historic homestead, sells thousands of rare varieties from the nineteenth century. In their first book, The Heirloom Life Gardener (Hachette Books, 2015), the Gettles offer guidance on saving seeds—a cost-efficient practice they say fosters connections to agricultural heritage, helps maintain crop diversity, and creates unique strains ideally suited to local conditions. In this excerpt, Jere and Emilee share tips for success.
- Make sure you’re saving the right kind of seeds. … [T]here are two main kinds: open-pollinated seeds, many of which are considered heirlooms; and hybrid seeds, which are cross-pollinated. Saving seeds from hybrids will often yield disappointing results, because when planted again, hybrids will either be sterile (i.e., they won’t grow at all) or will revert to one of their parent types. Select types that you can isolate adequately in your situation.
- Harvest seeds from your best plants. Select from the plants that had early yields, high productivity, and superb taste.
- Before you start collecting the seeds, clear out a workspace for yourself and organize whatever equipment you’ll need, such as paper towels, a knife and cutting board, a colander, jars, and labels. Many seeds look alike, so take care to label each batch of seeds clearly once they are scooped out to dry, to avoid confusion.
- Cut the fruit open, scoop out the seeds, and let them dry in a well ventilated area for fourteen to twenty-one days, or until they’re totally dry and almost brittle.
PHOTOGRAPHY Mac Jamieson
Reprinted with permission from Jere and Emilee Gettle.