Seed Saving for River of Herbs

This morning we were able to eat breakfast on the roof because the weather was so beautiful. After quite a while, when the morning dew had thoroughly dried off the plants, I set about some herb seed collecting with my toddler daughter. Here she is doing a very good job of rubbing dry Chive heads, to release the tiny black seeds into a paper bag. She loved it and we collected lots of seeds in a very short time.

Seeds are usually the cheapest way to make new plants and we will need lots of seeds to make a River of Herbs in and around Amsterdam. So if you are interested in; building up your own herb seed supply, adding more herbs to urban spaces or simply to eat some edible herb seeds – now is a good time to start collecting! I intend to make up little mixed herb seed packets, to sprinkle in prepared Urban Herb Meadow locations.

Different plants flower and seed at different times so keep your eyes open for maturing seed heads on plants you know and keep a clean paper bag or two in your pocket/ bag when you are out and about. You never know when a perfectly ripe Hollyhock seedhead may surprise you!

Today we collected seeds from:
Chives
Borage
Welsh Onion
Calendula
Valerian

I’m off to the park now and hope to find some Garlic mustard seed to save in labelled paper bags. I love eating the leaves of the plant and would like to see it growing in some Urban Herb Meadows in town.

If you decide to collect seed, make sure you only collect when they are bone dry. They will mould and be useless if they are at all damp. With some seeds it’s easiest to shake the seed head into your bag, allowing the ripe dry seeds to fall into the bag. With others, it’s best to snip off part or all of the seed head with scissors, before sorting it out. Generally if it needs snipping off the plant, its not thoroughly dried out but use your judgement. Get them home in a paper bag and then take osome time to pick through and separate out the seeds from debris. Label the seed bags, seal them up and set aside in a p,ace where they will remain fairly cool and very dry until the planting season.

If you want to help with the River of Herbs then also consider the suitability of what you are saving from the project. Plants need to be non invasive (e.g. Mint wouldn’t be such a good idea unless in a hole-free container where it can’t easily escape, Japanese knotweed is clearly a no no as it comketely takes over/ obliterates wherever it grows) and not poisonous. The plants also need to be insect pollinated as one of the main points of the project is to provide insect friendly corridors in and around the city.

I think it unlikely that on your seed saving missions you’d remove all the seed from a plant but just in case it needs mentioning – remember the foraging rules, take only what you need, leave lots and lots! Also, please don’t harvest seed from annuals and biennials growing wild as they rely on them to regenerate next year. The Garlic mustard I am about to collect is a biennial but I’ll take it from locations where it will be completely strimmed away very soon – such as lamp post bases in concrete.

Good places to collect herb seed, from plants you have already identified are:
Your own pots, tubs and garden,
Untended geveltuinen (pavement gardens),
Public places where the council are sure to mow or strim

Good luck with your seed collecting and do let me know how you get on.

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