Preparedness

Hosted by Susan Cutler
Group active since Fri, Oct 19, 2012

It is important to have some food stored on our pantry shelves that will help us through any emergency. I am hoping we can exchange those ideas and make suggestions to help us all! What do you think?

If you have children it is important to have things available they would love.

Let's hear your ideas! The easier the recipes and keeping preparation costs down, I believe is important for us all. Let's see what we all can come up with!

Sharon Colyer
Apr 1, 2014

ROSES HAVE HIPS TOO, NATURE'S VITAMIN C

Hood Health 101: Roses Have Hips Too! Nature’s Vitamin C
pologod | April 1, 2014
|
In this edition of HH101 the importance of rose hips to human health are explored in response to
a natural disaster.

Many times we are reminded by mother nature how destructive that she can be. However, when a natural disaster strikes in the magnitude of their being no available food supply how would a person take care of him/herself? We have witnessed situations right here in the United States (i.e Hurricane Katrina, most recently Hurricane Sandy, and the water contamination currently happening in West Virginia) that left many people hungry, out of doors, and in severe cases, dead are reminders of how serious a natural disaster can be.
Many of us who live in urban areas are all too familiar with bad weather. Especially nowadays. So in the event of a natural disaster in your neighborhood it is important to know how your areas being devastated could potentially harm your health. One of the most important Vitamins to have in the event of a natural disaster is Vitamin C. Without Vitamin C your body develops scurvy. Scurvy is a disease that occurs when you have a severe lack of vitamin c in your diet. Scurvy causes general weakness, anemia, gum disease, and skin hemorrhages according to Medline Plus (A Service of the US National Library of Medicine).
Most people know of the more common sources of vitamin c from food stuffs like; guava, oranges, red sweet pepper, kiwi, green sweet pepper, and strawberries. One of the more not so recognizable sources of vitamin c, especially in the case of a natural disaster and the store runs out of food, is Rose Hips. Cute name right?! Make sure you never forget the name because Rose Hips could potentially save your life.
One of the common myths that many of us are lead to believe is that oranges have the most vitamin c. Although oranges are a very good source of vitamin c they aren’t the number one. According to the Magazine Good House Keeping oragnes aren’t ranked number on the list of foods with the most vitamin c content, guavas are. Vitamin C helps the body maintain healthy tissues and a strong immune system. It also aids in the absorption of iron into the blood stream as well.
According to Good Housekeeping, the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for adult men is 90 mg and for adult women is 75 mg; and also recent research has called into question the efficacy of vitamin c pills. Rose Hips grow naturally in nature and should be looked for in waste areas, roadsides, and rocky soils. The edible part of the plant are its petals, leaves, and the fruit (hips, red or orange). The plant can be gathered during the midsummer for petals and leaves and late summer to early fall for the plants ripe hips.
Fresh rose petals and leaves can be used in a fruit or vegetable salad. Also used as a garnish to provide elegance and extra nutrition, the fresh rose petals can be used for steeping tea as well. The pulp from the flower also can be made into a sauce or jelly. Ripe rose hips are very rich in vitamin c; with each hip containing ten milligrams. They also contain a high amount of carotene (Vitamin A precursor) and Vitamin P (bioflavonoids).
While we try and avoid big hips on our bodies, big hips on a rose can be incredibly attractive.
-Tamara El(@MwiliHakalu)

Toni D
Mar 9, 2014

Handy...thought I'd share

sewinghappyplace.blogspot.com/...tml ....don't know how many times I've been out checking on things and I wish I'd brought a bucket

Maggie ^O^
Feb 20, 2014

Good Information

I've just read all of the entries here .. and there are a lot of them! You have provided some very good information.


Susan Cutler
Feb 20, 2014

Essential Tools for Home Survival

For many preppers, gear is the name of the game when it comes to disaster survival. It's important to use skill building over the collection of supplies, but there are certain tools and equipment that can be live saving when SHTF.

You’re probably already familiar with the term bug out bag and you may already have one (or more) of your own. Everyone has his or her own idea of what a bug out bag should look like, but there is no such thing as the perfect set up.

But a bug out bag isn’t just only intended for those individuals intent on getting out of dodge as soon as disaster strikes. Furthermore, bugging out may not always be a viable option. The survival essentials that you’d want to have in a wilderness or on-the-road survival situation are the same items you’d want on hand at home when SHTF.

Here are some essential tools to keep in your home to give you a much better chance at surviving a disaster.

Since we’re assuming you’ll be using your home as a shelter, we won’t discuss tools associated with shelter building. We will focus on the other crucial components for survival including:

Water procurement
Fire-making
Cooking
First Aid
Communication
Security

Water procurement

Water is the single most important element you need to survive. It’s a great idea to store large quantities of water in your home in case of emergencies, but keep in mind even bottled water has a shelf life and requires rotation. When the pipes run dry and your stores run out, you’ll need a way to procure water on your own. In a survival situation you should aim to drink at least 1-liter of water each day.

Keep in mind that you’ll not only need water for drinking, but for cooking, cleaning, and hygienic purposes as well.

Boiling rainwater and making a homemade still are options, but when it comes to water-procuring tools a purifying straw can be a great device to own. The LifeStraw is an award-winning polifestraw-personal-water-filtertable filtration device that allows you to drink directly from any fresh water source, contaminated or not.

**Check out my article from the past DISCUSSIONS on 'Lifestraw'. I highly recommend everyone purchase one for their emergency kit.

Its basically a big, plastic tube that allows you to suck water through a series of hollow fibers in a process called microfiltration–this frees the water you drink from 99.9% of bacteria and parasites.

A single personal LifeStraw can filter up to 1,000 liters of water and has a 3-year shelf life.

Fire-making

Fire is essential for keeping warm, disinfecting water, cooking, and overall morale. If you already have a wood-burning fireplace in your home you’re off to a good start, as those powered by gas and electricity will be quick to fail when SHTF.

Whether hunkering down or bugging out, it’s recommended you always carry at least 3 tools for starting a fire. This could be your basic plastic lighter, a box of waterproof matches, a magnesium rod and striker, or emergency flares. Regardless of you’re preferred choice, always have a backup to your backup.

In addition to actually starting a fire, you’ll need tools capable of providing you with a sustainable supply of fuel, most often in the form of wood. The best tools for gathering wood are wood-splitting mauls (somewhere in the 6 to 8 pound range), crosscut saws, and sledgehammers and wedges.

Cooking

Many home preppers are advocates of stockpiling as much shelf-stable, dehydrated, and non-perishable food items as your space and budget can afford. Whether or not this is your route, you’ll still need a handful of basic tools and utensils to make meal preparation and cooking much easier.

Basic utensil set (fork, knife, spoon) or spork
Can opener
Plate set
Enamelware camp mug
Single burner stove (with extra fuel canisters)
Homemade alcohol stove
Metal pot

First Aid

Hopefully you already have a sense of what should go into a basic survival first aid kit. Things like gauze, hydrogen peroxide, antibacterial ointment, bandages, and scissors are all basics that you should have on hand.

Some other essential first aid tools and instruments to consider include:

Tweezers
Safety pins
Suture kit
Razor blades
Tampons
Surgical tubing

Communication

In an earlier post, we went into some detail about the importance of familiarizing yourself with various communications systems and devices. When disaster strikes, power lines and cell towers are sure to be affected and leave you without information pertaining to your surroundings.

In a disaster situation, knowledge is the key to your survival. That begs the importance of having a backup radio (or two or three) on hand to make receiving and transmitting pertinent information to others a possibility. Beyond the radio itself you probably won’t need many tools to keep it operating aside from a power source and antenna.

See the post on communications or its follow up on some less-conventional techniques for more information on this topic.

Security

In a hunker-down, home survival scenario, you must think about what measures you are willing to take to protect your family and property.

No bug out bag or home of a self-respecting prepper should be without some form of weapon to be used for self-defense and security purposes. Firearms should be your first option if available to you, as they are the most effective and powerful of self-defense weapons. Not to mention they have the ability to put food on the table if used for hunting.

Other self-defense tools/items include:

Pepper spray
Gun cleaning kit
Gun oil/lubrication

If a gun isn’t available to you, you may consider using one of the multi-purpose tools listed in the next category, as some of them can be adapted to be used for security in addition to their intended practicality.

Misc. Tools

The equipment listed below may not fall specifically into the categories above but are commonly found in bug out bags and home preparedness kits alike because of their versatility.

Crowbar
Fixed-blade knife
Paracord
Siphon/hand pump
Hatchet
Heavy-duty flashlight (Maglite works best)
Multi-tool/Swiss Army knife
Duct tape
Garden wire

Keep in mind that every prepper is different and has his/her own ideas of what tools, equipment, and supplies you should have on hand when SHTF. Arguably, you’ll have a much better chance surviving a disaster scenario if you stay in your home and use the resources you already have to foster the survival of your family.

The categories mentioned above and their associated tools are commonly considered the most important components and essential equipment for surviving any adverse scenario.

Susan Cutler
Feb 20, 2014

Can You Have “Off-grid Gourmet Food?”

The big one is coming. What you’ve made all your preps for.

At some point, the stores are going to close, or the electronic banking system is going to go down. A weather event or high gas prices are going to price you out of the food market. You’re going to be among the few people prepared to survive. Part of why you’re reading this is because you know this. But you can’t handle eating crappy food. You’re not alone. Take a look at all these great foods for survival gourmet.

Sure, you could do like everyone else and order pre-packaged food limiting your sustainability and flavor palate. Or you could order a ton of bulk grains and beans that will have you crying out for flavor in a matter of days. Either way: you’ll be ok for a little while, but you’ll never get back to the standard of living you’re used to. You’re not going to have within your grasp, the flavors and food items you crave. Do you want to know what is going to make your survival situation pleasurable instead of painful? If you’re looking for survival food gourmet, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s start small here, because the assumption cannot be made, that all of you have a deep freezer full of game meat running on solar panels. Noone knows if you’ve got 200 cans of high quality freeze dried chicken breast. It’s not a foregone conclusion that you’ve got hunting acreage and a good game management plan for your property. It’s a novel thought to think that all the readers of this content are establishing a robust aquaponics program for their family. Let’s be realistic though. In all honesty, you should be looking into aquaponics and traditional gardening. Raising small livestock (think chickens, goats, turkey, or other) can also serve as a base for your overall food preparation and planning. Maybe you’re not there quite yet.

Looking for the biggest impact? Wondering what is going to bring a smile to your face, or that of your children? What types of food do you crave? What types of food instantly bring you comfort with their bites? What items would you miss if you couldn’t just drive to the grocery store and grab some whenever you felt like it?

Would the following be on the list?

High end seafood?

How about duck, or cured meats, like pepperoni, salami or chorizo?

What about warm bread with butter?

Fresh milk?

Bright fresh condiments?

Fresh bread, eggs or cheese?

Bacon?

Surprise, surprise, all item listed can be stored for a long time on the shelf, WITHOUT having to learn pressure canning. You won’t even need expensive preparation methods and won’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get these foods in your pantry.

Yes, these items enjoy both a long shelf life and widespread availability. It’s this knowledge that’s going to bring you some survival food gourmet, when beans and rice just won’t do it all the time.

A note: If you cannot find these brands of preparations, you should be able to find them with competitive pricing on amazon.com, or even at other e-tailers, especially internet based food stores.

Bacon:

Bacon can be bought as a fresh product suitable for freezing, or it can be bought as a “precooked” product (which can actually be cooked again or heated up for different applications) in a can. This stuff is awesome with a really long shelf life (try 4 years+). If you don’t have a freezer for bacon, but you absolutely must have it, look for the following brands: Yoder’s or CMMG. In future articles, we might touch on the curing process and how you can also cure your own meats for storage without canning or having to buy it. It’s pretty easy to pressure-can your own bacon though, so if you have the desire…

Condiments:

Sure standard ketchup and yellow mustard can last in the pantry for a few years, but they are culinary lightweights when it comes to flavor. Whole grain mustard seeds can be reconstituted with a bit of water and provide an excellent variation to your mustard needs. Another item you would be glad to have is chili paste. Chili paste gives a hot and sour flavor to just about anything. It won’t overtake the whole dish; it works in beans, soups, noodles, meat preparation and eggs. It will serve you well as a basis for other sauces, dips and marinades. The vinegar helps to soften meat proteins and the chili gives a huge boost in flavor. The shelf life isn’t listed but they’ll last for more than 4 years without significant degradation of quality.

Vinegars are also good things to have: White, Red Wine, Apple Cider and balsamic vinegars are all shelf stable for extensive periods of time and can help you make dressings for salads. Great meat marinades can be made easily and vinegar can even serve as a medical option in some cases. Vinegar can be used as a preservation agent for other items like cucumbers, onions, garlic and tomatoes, for short term and long-term storage.

Seafood:

It’s no secret that a tuna fish sandwich can be made to taste great, even if it does come out of a can. But did you know there are thousands of different canned seafood with incredible shelf lives? Would you be surprised to learn that they taste much better than your standard Bumblebee brand tuna? You can get whole tuna steaks preserved in oil or water, which taste almost as good as restaurant quality. In many cases (like in Spain and Portugal) canned tuna steaks are used as tapas and appetizers because of their specific flavor and quality.

You can also get super high quality whitefish (like herring) with light marinades in cans that taste like fresh fish. Clams, oysters, mussels and even conch can be bought in easy to open cans packed in oil. A fan favorite is octopus by the Vigo brand, it tastes tender, doesn’t overpower you with a fishy flavor and is substantial enough to add to pasta or rice. You could even make soup or eat the octopus with bread or crackers as a meal. Add in a bit of whole grain mustard and chili paste (as above) and some fresh herbs from your indoor or indoor garden and you’ve got an excellent small meal or a great snack, full of protein and flavor.

No joke, some of these canned fish and seafood taste better than some of the stuff you can buy “fresh” in many grocery stores.

Susan Cutler
Feb 20, 2014

Naturally Preserving Food for Long Term Survival

Natural preservatives can come in quite handy especially when it comes to long term survival. There are many advantages to preserving your food naturally as it prevents the deterioration of food, thereby making it last longer.

Below are good-to-use natural preservation methods that won’t stress your pockets. What’s more, they will come in useful in emergency situations.

Dehydration

The term dehydration refers to the removal of water from food such that their nutrients are preserved and the food lasts for a longer period of time. Some foods may require simple methods such as the use of a fan to air-dry the food. Other foods require other methods of dehydration.

Whichever method you decide to use, the aim should be to remove as much water as possible from your food and still leave them edible for a long time to come. Most dehydration methods are accomplished through heating; either using your oven or other dehydration techniques.

For best results, it is better if your food is sliced thinly so as to allow for faster dehydration.

For example, if you are going to dehydrate your meat, it is better to slice the meat into thin strips and put them in the oven using only small amount of heat and allow the heat to gradually remove the water content of the meat. Too much heat during this process may cause your meat to burn and become useless.

Most foods can simply be dried in the sun; this is especially good for those living in sunny locations.

Ensure that your food item is completely devoid of water before storing. If there is water locked in the middle of the food, it is inevitable that spoilage will gradually set in and you will have spoiled, inedible food on your hands.

Foods that are dehydrated can last for more than a year. There is no need to refrigerate dehydrated foods. Remember to reconstitute your dehydrated vegetables with water before eating them.

Vinegar

Foods last longer if they are dipped in vinegar. Most vegetables are preserved this way. Cakes, turnips, cucumbers, cauliflower, green tomatoes, carrots, leeks, pickles and green beans are a few of the foods that can be preserved using this natural method.

The good thing about vinegars is that they come in a variety of flavors. Even though vinegars are used in ridding table tops and dirty clothes of harmful germs, they are also very beneficial in food preservation.

Fermentation

Fermentation can indeed control spoilage through the simple method of allowing your food to spoil in a controlled manner. This may sound crazy but that’s the way fermentation works. Instead of allowing food to spoil with the help of harmful microbes, they do so with the aid of beneficial microbes.

In the process they produce alcohol which will help to preserve the food and make it last longer than it would naturally do.

A famous example is the fermentation of alcohol by yeast. Other foods that are fermented by useful bacterial and fungi include cheese, pickles, bread, chocolate, beer, wine and cured meats.

Sugar

It may sound surprising to some but sugars make good preservatives. They work very much the same way as salts by dehydration. Dehydration prevents the growth of microbes that causes spoilage. Honey is a good source of sugar to use for preservation purposes. In the absence of honey, you may consider making syrup with sugar cubes.

Salting

This process has been used for centuries to preserve food for long term survival. Salt is used to preserve meat and fish from spoilage.

Salt works by dehydrating the food as well as the microbes present in the food. This way the microbes are prevented from contributing to decomposition.

Most especially, mold and yeast cannot grow in food pretreated with salt. Food preserved this way could last for years.

Rosemary Extract

Rosemary extract comes from rosemary leaves. It is a useful preservative that also doubles as an antioxidant and imbues foods with nice flavor and aroma. Rosemary extracts work by preventing oxidation, which is a major cause of spoilage. Rosemary extracts used for preservation are called rosemary oleoresin.

Sorbic Acid

Sorbic acid occurs naturally in berries. They help in the prevention of the growth of yeast and fungi as well as bacteria.

Sorbic acid can be purchased in grocery stores and pharmacies. The most popular types of sorbic acid are sodium sorbate, potassium sorbate and calcium sorbate. Sorbic acid is different from ascorbic acid and shouldn’t be confused with it.

From a couple of bloggers:

Cinnamon is also a good preservative. In fact, years ago, a company produced cinnamon-laced plastic wrap for commercial meatpacking. This would allow fresh meat to have a longer shelf life. Cinnamon is a natural inhibitor of food degradation. I'm guessing grocery stores didn't want to use it because it would have cost more. The plastic wrap did not change the flavor of the meat.

And make sure you're using REAL cinnamon from Ceylon, not cassia. This link describes the difference.
cinnamon-extract.com/What_is_Real_Ci...

Article by Joy T -is a creative writer and blogger. She lectured briefly at a polytechnic before taking up fulltime freelance writing. She sometimes finds it difficult balancing her love of writing and reading. She also enjoys spending quality time with her family. Her spare time is spent in her garden tending tomatoes, chilli, okra and vegetables; which are preserved with utmost care.

Susan Cutler
Feb 20, 2014

Uses of Salt for Survival

BIG -salt In any SHTF situation, it is important to know how to maximize the resources at your disposal. With a little knowledge and creativity, you can greatly expand the number of uses a particular item has.

Take salt, for example. Everyone who wants to be prepared when SHTF should have an abundant supply of salt in their homes since it has so many practical uses that would greatly benefit such a scenario. That also makes salt a perfect bartering item.

Uses for Food

The main purpose of salt for most people is to add a bit more taste to their food. However, salt can be so much more useful in the kitchen thanks to the many applications it has.

* Prevent the browning of fruits and vegetables. Food storage is one of the main concerns for people preparing themselves for a disaster. Every new technique that preserves food under conditions where electricity is no longer available is welcomed. Salt can be used to stop fruits and veggies from browning. Normally, this is something that can be done with lemon juice or vinegar, but a bucket of salty water will also do the trick.

* Preserve food naturally for long term survival. Salt works by dehydrating the food as well as the microbes present in the food. This way the microbes are prevented from contributing to decomposition. Most especially, mold and yeast cannot grow in food pretreated with salt. Food preserved this way could last for years.

* Fresh egg test. There is a simple way of telling whether an egg is good to eat or not using salt. All you need is a cup of water with two teaspoons of salt in them. If you drop an egg in the cup, a fresh one should sink straight to the bottom while an older one would float. An older egg has more buoyancy because the air cell inside of it increases. However, this does not necessarily mean the egg is bad. You still have to crack it and smell for any foul odors to see if it is truly rotten.

* Make cheese last longer. Another food which has an increased lifespan by using salt is cheese. Even when it is preserved properly in a refrigerated environment, cheese will inevitable spoil due to mold. This cannot be prevented with salt, but it can be delayed. All that is necessary is to wrap the cheese before storing it in a damp cloth moistened using saltwater.

* Put out grease fires. When cooking, a grease fire is one of the most dangerous things that can happen. It can overcome the entire kitchen in just a few moments and, eventually, the entire home. One thing to never do is to throw water on top of a grease fire. The water evaporates instantly and spreads the fire all over the room. Instead, throwing salt on top of the grease fire will create a crusty layer without oxygen, thus smothering the flames. Moreover, the salt also acts as a heat sink, dissipating the heat.

Personal Care Uses

salt Already, salt is proving itself to be quite useful in the kitchen alone. However, it still has the potential for many other uses, some which are related to personal care.

* Get rid of itchiness. Salt can be used for bee stings, mosquito stings, poison ivy and any other types of problems that cause rashes and itchy skin. The salt will not reduce inflation and will not make the rashes disappear, but it will cool down the skin and get rid of that itchy sensation. What you need to do is apply a cloth which has been soaked in saltwater to act as a compress. Alternatively, you can also dampen the affected area and simply apply a handful of salt to it. For the latter, it is important to make sure there are no open wounds. Applying salt in this case would be really painful.

* Treat mouth problems. Any kind of sores in the mouth such as abscesses and cankers can be dealt with using salt. What you need to do is to rinse your mouth several times a day using warm water with a little salt in it. It will help deal with the pain, but make sure not to put too much salt in it.

* Provide tooth care. When resources are scarce, salt can also be used to look after your teeth. First of all, it can be used to extend the life of a toothbrush by simply soaking it in saltwater. Furthermore, a very efficient solution can be made by combining one part of fine salt with two parts of baking soda. This mixture can be used on a toothbrush to act as a toothpaste replacement. It can also be mixed with water and used as a rinsing solution.

Home Care Uses

Looking after your home is important whether SHTF or not. Salt can be used as a replacement for a surprisingly large amount of products. Their purposes are very diverse, but they do have one thing in common – they all benefit the home.

* Prevent ant invasions. If a home is suffering from ant intruders, salt can be of use as long as you know where the ants are entering from. A simple line of salt placed at the doorways or on the window wills is enough to deter the pests. Ants will not cross over the salt.

* Get rid of poison ivy. Another invader which can be dealt with using salt is poison ivy. For this, you will need a mixture of salt and soapy water – about three pounds mixed with one gallon should be enough. This mixture should be sprayed on the leaves and stems of the ivy. However, you need to be careful to avoid the plants that you do not wish to kill.

* Get rid of stains. Salt can be used to get rid of a wide array of tough and stubborn stains. All you need to do in this situation is to soak the fabrics with the stains in cold saltwater. This works for clothes, but also for carpets, drapes and rugs. It should be able to remove blood, sweat, wine, ketchup etc. It can also be used to get rid of certain unpleasant odors from clothes.

* Clean around the house. There are a large number of common items which can be cleaned using various solutions containing salt. For starters, refrigerators can be cleaned using a simple mix of salt and soda water instead of using chemicals. Cast-iron pans with grease on them are also easy to clean by sprinkling salt on them and then using paper towels. Wooden tables can be cleaned of glass ring stains using a paste made out of salt and vegetable oil. Sink drains are kept smelling fresh and free of grease deposits by regularly pouring a mixture of hot water and salt down them. Items made of brass and copper can be cleaned using a paste made out of equal parts salt, vinegar and flour.

As you can see, salt has many uses. Therefore, it should be considered an indispensable resource for anyway looking to prepare for an SHTF event.

Bella C is a freelance writer with two degrees in English who enjoys writing whenever she has the chance. Her subjects cover a variety of topics and she wants to take advantage of every opportunity in order to improve her writing skills. She prefers to write informational articles which are not only interesting, but also useful to those who read them.

Susan Cutler
Feb 20, 2014

Save Your Own “Survival Seeds” 2

Seed saving techniques vary from crop to crop, but typically start with having a good gene pool from the start.

Most crops that cross pollinate will need a number of parent plants of the same variety to prevent inbreeding. Inbreeding is when related plants (i.e. siblings or relatives) mate or cross. This causes the offspring to have limited genes, which means that they may not grow well or survive stress. This is important for seed savers to remember if they want productive gardens year after year.

Inbred crops lose vitality and productivity over time- something called “inbreeding depression.” Crops like carrots are especially susceptible to inbreeding depression. Having a large population that can cross pollinate will prevent this from happening over time. Sharing seed with other folks in your region is another great way to prevent inbreeding depression. This essentially injects new genes into your gene pool.

In order for plants to set seed, they have to be able to flower, and in order to flower, they must have a long enough growing season. If you have a hard frost while your crops are flowering, it may kill the crop or prevent seed from growing. This may mean that you need to start some of your crops indoors in order to give them a long enough growing season.

Once your crops have flowered and begun to set seed, you must pick a number of individuals to gather seed from. The more plants that you choose the better, but it’s also important to exclude plants that seem weak, have diseases or are less productive than the others. Choosing seed from the healthiest plants is wise, but make sure that you’re still choosing seed from as many of your healthy plants as possible to prevent inbreeding depression.

Allow the seed to mature on the plant. Harvesting seeds before they are ripe may reduce their viability (i.e. it may kill the developing seed). This is a tricky business- seed must be harvested once it is mature, but before the plant begins to “let go” of the seed. Most plants don’t hold onto their seeds forever. At a certain point, the plants begin to allow their seeds to be released or spread a number of different ways. For the gardener this typically means that the capsules containing the seeds will begin to break, shatter or even explode, spreading the seeds out on the ground around the parent plant. It’s important that seed savers observe their plants and remove the seed before this stage.

Collecting Seed

Collecting the seeds is a fairly simple procedure- the seed pods should be picked, or seeds stripped from the plant by hand. Because there are so many different types of seed pods, this procedure can be different for different plants. Crops like lettuce that send up a spike can be hung to dry over paper bags or cookie trays to catch the drying seed. Some crops like tomatoes and cucumbers may need some extra work to get the seed cleaned up and ready to store.

For many greens and crops like beans, the seed is ready when it is dry. Bean pods should be dry and hard when the beans are harvested, and the beans should have dried down so that they rattle in the shell. These seeds are already dry, so they typically don’t need a long drying period. These seeds are also fairly simple to remove from the seed pods- either by rubbing the pods between your hands, crushing, or cracking the pods by hand. Many other seeds must be processed and rinsed before they can be saved and stored. Here are a few:

Tips for Collecting Seed From Specific Crops

Peppers: When peppers are very ripe, they can be cut open and the seed removed from the central cone. The seed should scrape easily from the flesh of the pepper. The seed can begin the drying process immediately without rinsing.

Eggplant: Several eggplant fruit should be left on the plant. When they harden and begin to shrivel slightly, the eggplant can be cut open and the seeds removed. The seeds can be treated the same way as peppers.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are tricky because the seeds have a fleshy, gelatinous sack around them that needs to be removed before the seed can be dried for storage. To remove this sack the traditional way, squeeze or scoop the seed from the ripe tomatoes into a bowl or jar. If there isn’t much seed, add a little water to the seed mass. Cover the bowl or jar with a cloth and allow the jar to sit to sit at room temperature, out of direct light for several days. Stir the seeds once or twice a day. Soon you will begin to see mold or fungus grow on the surface of the seed mass. This mold will essentially eat the slimy coat around the seeds. This sack is nature’s way of preventing the seeds from germinating inside the tomato, and the fermentation of this coat is the tomato plants way of removing the coat so that the seeds can germinate, but also using fermentation and the fungus to produce antibiotics that destroy viruses and bacteria that would otherwise infect the seed.

After several days, pour some water into the jar. Bad and immature seed as well as the decomposing sacks will float to the surface and can be poured down the drain. The good seed will sink to the bottom of the jar. You may need to pour water into the jar several times, but you will eventually end up with pulp-free, good tomato seed that you can strain out and dry for storage.

Squash and pumpkin: Squash and pumpkin seed should not be harvested until it is very ripe- squashes should be left on the vine until they harden up. Chop the fruit open and scoop out the seed- wash the filaments and flesh from the seed using slightly warm water.

Drying seed:

Dry seed in a cool dry place over the course of several days- dry seed will be brittle rather than flexible. Do not dry seed in an oven as the heat will kill the seeds.

Once the seeds are dry they can be stored. Beans, peas and other legumes prefer to “breathe,” and should be placed in a plastic bag with some air exchange. Most other seed can be stored in mason jars, or in plastic bags inside of mason jars.

Seed must be stored in a dry, cool, dark location to keep it viable. A dry cellar out of light is the best type of location. In humid environments it pays to purchase silica gel packets (or recycle ones from products you purchase) to include in the seed storage jars. This will keep humidity low and prolong the shelf life of your seed.

Most seed will last for several years if stored in this manner.

Seed saving can be a huge benefit to anyone interested in self-sufficiency. For many gardeners, seed saving allows crops to adapt and respond to local conditions, resulting in productive, resilient crops over time. The diversity of crops grown on this planet has plummeted over the last 100 years, and with it the resilience of agricultural systems. In this regard, saving seed helps reduce the losses of ancient, well-adapted crops to the onslaught of commercial seed companies and monocultural systems.

Seed savers are not only providing for their families and preserving a legacy thousands of years old, but also protesting the new, unsustainable ways of producing food. Saving seed is not only a wise thing to do, but a fun thing to do as a family! Kids love helping save seed, and teaching them how to be more independent and live sustainably is an incredibly fun and rewarding activity.

Now you have the information you need to get started. You have the ability and knowledge to begin harvesting, cleaning and storing seed from year to year, saving money, growing better crops, and living more independently. Have fun as you put this information to use and start down the road to seed independence.

by Nate Storey PhD