Friday, September 28, 2012

Winnowing Seeds

I've had bags of seed heads drying in paper bags for eons now. I'd been putting it off. It really isn't my favorite chore to winnow the seeds. But It is already the end of September and yesterday was a lovely day. I figured I might not get many more days in the 70Fs. So I went outside to separate the seeds from the chaff.

I always put down a piece of cloth or something to catch what blows away. Not because I care about the chaff, but because sometimes when the wind blows (or my fan that was hooked up today), it blows a bit too hard. Sometimes I lose seed and the cloth makes it easy to pick up. The other required piece is an old pillowcase. I put the seed heads in and stomp on them or if the seeds are delicate I use my hands to crush them all up. The mustard seeds can handle the abuse of being stomped on. The yellow mustard was easy to separate as the seed pods just shatter. The brown ones on the other hand were a pain in the butt. The seed heads just didn't want to open. And when they did, there was a thin layer separating the two side that wouldn't come off. So I'd get half the seeds from a pod. In addition the brown pods had some germination inside the pods. The germinated ones don't separate easily from the seed. I wonder if it will affect the quality of the mustard I make later. I hope not.

And I have to say, using a fan is so much easier than relying on the wind. The wind gusts so can really blow the seed where you don't want it. Or it stops so the chaff doesn't get blown away. But a fan can be controlled. It is the first time I've used one to winnow my seeds.

Some seed like the mustards and coriander were winnowed so they got very clean. Dill doesn't winnow at all. It will all blow away, so I just picked the worst of it out and don't mind the little bits of small stems. I never notice it when I use it anyway. The stems that get left in are micro thin and very small. I could have done the onion seed better, but the onion seed is the one seed in there that won't be eaten. I'm just going to plant it so it doesn't matter if it is perfect.

And as a side note. The onion seed is from some hybrid plants. So who knows what I'll get. I don't have room to let enough bunching onions go to seed to maintain genetic viability. But the seed from a hybrid is variable enough that it will grow well. I just don't know what I'll get. I figure it is a bunching onion. So who really cares?


  1. Beautiful seeds Daphne! It takes a lot of patience to winnow your own seeds. I've got a bunch of lettuce seeds waiting for's one of those tasks that I put off.

    1. Lettuce seeds are hard. I do them in front of the TV. I grab the bottom and take all the fluff off before I let the seeds fall into the bowl. It is slow, but I only do it in front of the TV so I'm not bored out of my skull. Later I clean them better, but then again it is lettuce seed. It doesn't need to be as perfect as something I eat.

  2. They make such a pretty picture all finished up. I admire your patience doing all that. I have winnowed seeds on an occassion but do not regularly harvest seed like that. I had such a lousy dill crop this year, there was barely enough for me to use let alone save seed, but that dill seed makes me wish it had been otherwise.

  3. Very nice. I don't usually winnow seeds. I never really have enough for that.

  4. Very nice picture of all your seeds! I have wondered how to separate chaf from the seed and enjoyed your article. Nancy

  5. Oh you are good - I tend to just leave quite a bit of the fluff in there but then my seeds are generally just for resowing rather than eating and those I do eat eg coriander are easy to separate.

  6. I also winnow almost all my seeds this weekend, it's really boring. I saved the chaff from many varieties of basil seeds and added to a pout-pourri because I love the aroma.