So past few years I have been collecting seeds from my luxury pie pumpkins to plant the next year. Everything was going as planned, they sprouted on the grow box brought them outside when the temperature was right and planted them in the garden. They made a long vine and sprawled throughout my hard, then came the fruit…
Instead of the typical nice small round baby pumpkin, I saw something that more closely resembled a zucchini. So my best guess is I made a crossbreed, which is not surprising since I have a pretty small area in my yard of southern facing full sun so pumpkins and zucchinis are planted in near vicinities.
Not expecting to be the first person in history to do this I went online and found a few other references of other people doing this as well. Sounds like my best bet is to roast it like other squash and is supposed to have a pretty creamy texture. Will let you know how it turns out in a couple weeks…
While going searching my logs I noticed the query in the topic. My first response, in my sarcastic mind was, “Uh red paint, maybe a red permanent marker?” After some more serious thought I did get some more helpful ideas.
Don’t be greedy: I know it is hard when you want to get as many delicious tomatoes as possible and you let your plants go wild producing as many fruit as possible but unfortunately you hit the end of your growing season with 70% of those tomatoes to never to become ripe before the first frost. You can prevent this by pinching off any suckers that are not part of the main vein of the plant. Sure you may not get as many fruits but your plant can spent more of its energy getting that fruit red instead of growing more green tomatoes to throw in the compost.
Be light on the nitrogen: Do not give your plants too much nitrogen during its growth period. You will get a big beautiful plant, but unfortunately fruit will bear too late in the season to mature into ripe red tomatoes.
Get supermarket quality tomatoes from your garden: Of course tomatoes ripened on the vine will have the better taste but when your season runs out and your tomatoes are still green what can you do? One option is to take any flawless tomatoes (no bruises, no cracks) place them very gently in a cardboard box padded on bottom with newspaper and place in a cool humid location. You may also add a ripe banana to speed up the process by adding a little extra ethylene. If you are luck in a couple/few weeks you should have some red tomatoes.
Just eat the green tomatoes: If all else fails there is always the option of breading them with some bread crumbs, salt, and pepper and fry up until golden. There is also the green salsa option which I am planning on trying out this year…ok I may have been a little “greedy” this year.
I am attempting to grow the best pepper plants I can indoors (grow box) so I started with jalapeno peppers. They grow relatively small 2-3 feet and require 2-3 gallon container for growing. While this is fine for an outdoor garden, though indoors I can only sacrifice 1 gallon container. This summer I grew several jalapeno plants which spent half of their life in the grow box and spent our warm summer outdoors. All of the plants produced but there was definitely a clear winner which had incredible early yields even with its small growing quarters.
I used several immature peppers (green) for salsa this year but allowed several peppers to mature (red) which I will be saving the seeds for planting this winter and next summer for future plants. By hand selecting the best parent plants should be good old natural selection at work.
The process to collect pepper seeds is pretty simple though I must first provide this warning:
WARNING: Peppers are hot, especially the veins. When handling peppers use caution and wash your hands well with dish soap. Under no conditions do not rub your eyes or pick rub your nose before washing your hands or you will be regretting it for a couple hours. Using gloves is also recommended.
That being said slice the peppers lengthwise with a sharp knife.
Use a fork or spoon to gently dislodge the seeds into a small bowl.
If you are lucky enough to have hot sunny weather still (week of rain here) lay they out in the sun for a couple days and store them in a cool dry place until you are ready to plant them. If you are sun challenged like me set them on a windowsill for a few days.
As I have said before saving you own seeds is very easy and free and as an added bonus you can personally pick the best plant to be the donors of seeds for your future plantings. In my case I also have the benefit of a plants that is genetically grown to following my sporadic watering and care patterns.
It is really easy to save tomato seeds is a little more difficult that other vegetables seeds, but with a little patience and the right technique you can save your seeds with very little effort.
Step 1: Get the seeds. The easiest way to get to your seeds it do cut the tomato across the hemisphere as shown below.
This will give you easy access to the seeds, though if you are slicing your tomatoes at a different angle you can easily pull out some seeds with a prong of a fork or spoon. The cutting board will normally hold more than enough seeds than I will need for the following year.
Step 2: Get the junk off the seeds. The seeds have a gel-like substance that surrounds the seeds along with some pieces of flesh that you did not take the time to pick out. There are a couple of techniques to do this:
- Add some water to the seed mixture, cover with plastic and let them ferment for a few days.
- Mix tomato seed mix with equal amount of powdered disinfectant cleanser and let sit for 30 minutes
Given the fermentation methods can stink up your kitchen and the powdered disinfectant methods doesn’t exactly sounds organic I went with my own method I call the soak and rinse technique.
Drop the seeds in a small bowl with some water and let soak for a couple hours. Pour off anything floating to the top (seeds too they won’t germinate) into your sink
Pour what remains into a strainer and give a quick rinse with water.
Repeat the soak and rinse process twice a day and notice the amount of gel decreasing.
Once the seeds look like the ones below (about 2-2.5 days) they are ready to be dried.
Step 3: Drying the seeds. I do this by spreading the seeds on a labeled coffee filter trying best to keep seeds from touching. Once they dry (couple days to a week) store them with your other seeds.
With very little effort and a few days of waiting you can collect seeds to use/share/trade for next season.
On of a common questions I still get is, do you still grow tomatoes upside down? Does that really work better than just planting in the ground?
Well I decided to do a little experiment and start several tomato plants from seeds and grow two in an official Topsy Turvy planter, two in the ground with fertile soil, and one in a homemade self watering container.
Each plant was placed in the same area in my yard and was watered the same amount at the same time. About every 10 days I would also water with a diluted solution of water with fish emulsion. You can see some results in the pictures below.
Upside Down Planter
Self Watering Planter
Overall the upside down planters by far are having the best yields getting fruit 3 weeks before other plants. The self watering planters had the healthiest looking plants though yields were decent though taking their time. The plants in the ground are having some serious issues though still producing some tomatoes though doubt the plant will survive to have red fruit.
After this and previous years results I really don’t think I will be planting tomatoes in the ground in the near future…
Got that little bear of honey but it is all chunky and won’t come out? Just place it in a mason jar and fill with hot water (tap or boiling can work) and loosely add a lid to keep some of the heat in. Check on it in a few minutes and you should have nicely flowing honey again. Still a little chunky? Repeat the process again.
This happens because well honey is sugar and as time goes on small crystals can form and then grow making this chunky mess…this is the same process you would do to intentionally make some sugar crystals like below.
By heating the sugar up you dissolve these crystals making nice looking honey again which pretty much has a shelf life of forever.