Archive for the Seeds Category

Please Pass the Pigeon Peas

Posted in Seeds, Trees with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by PickMeYard

I ate the exact same lunch every day of my senior year in highschool… a Jamaican gungo pea patty.  I lived in the Cayman Islands then.  Recently, I found out that my beloved gungo peas are also called pigeon peas.  I’ve been growing them in my yard over the past year and have become extremely fond of this little tree. 

I had no idea that the tiny little pea I planted in my garden was going to turn into a small tree.  I knew it was a legume and would fix the nitrogen in my soil, but…a tree?  It’s not what I expected, but I adore my pigeon pea tree and have been planning where I’m going to plant more of them in my yard. 

A young pigeon pea plant.

A teenage pigeon pea plant.

A mature pigeon pea plant with lots of pods all over it.

I noticed that Epcot had quite a few of them growing in pots at their Flower & Garden Festival this year.  I tried growing one in a large pot too.  It looked healthy for a while and then went into a steady decline.  I didn’t worry about it too much though because the one I planted in the ground was thriving.

A young pigeon pea plant in a pot.

Pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan) grow in warm climates and will not tolerate frost.  They can be grown as a perennial in warm areas and will live from 2 to 5 years.  In my zone 9b, I have to grow them during the warm part of the year.  This isn’t a problem in SW Florida. If I time it right, I can get plenty of frost-free growing time and get a prolific crop of pigeon peas… and I did this year. 

My kids don’t like them cooked.  They like to stand at the tree and eat them fresh out of the pod when they’re green.  The goats do too.  They break out of their pen just to go stand at the pigeon pea tree and eat as fast as they can before they get caught.  I always break off a branch to give them.  This might be why the chickens chose this tree to hang out under too.

My tree has pods all over it.   Some of the pods have dried peas in them and some have green peas.  The green peas can be eaten fresh off the tree.  My kids and I find them to be delicious this way.  They’re extremely nutritious when they’re green too. The dried peas need to be soaked and cooked or saved to plant again.  My kids might not like them cooked, but my husband and I do.  Jamaican rice and peas are delectable.

Pigeon pea pods on the tree.

Dried pigeon peas in the pod.

Dried pigeon peas with some green ones thrown in.

A closer look.

Pigeon pea leaves and branches make great  fodder for animals.  They’re very nutritious.  The leaves are edible for people too, but I think they taste bad.  I tried stir-frying some real quick to see if it tasted better and it didn’t.  The leaves also make an awesome mulch for the garden.  Click here for a really great article on the pigeon pea plant  and its uses in  permaculture (in warm areas).  The variety I have has taken 7  months to develop peas, but it’s been a gorgeous plant and I’ve enjoyed all it’s stages of growth.  The honeybees love it too.

Pigeon pea leaves.

There was a stage where the tree was red with young blooms. Lovely!

Come grow with us!

Pumpkin Seeds

Posted in Seeds with tags , , on October 22, 2010 by PickMeYard
Pumpkin seeds ready to be scooped out.

Are you carving a pumpkin this year?  We just carved ours last night.  In years past, I always made it harder than it needs to be.  This year, I just grabbed my knife and started carving.  I didn’t have a plan.  My kids told me what to carve as I went along.  “Make it a vampire… give it a funny nose…”  It was easy and fun. 

I scooped out all the pumpkin seeds and rinsed them off in a colander.  I dabbed them with a paper towel to dry them a little and I spread them out on parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet. 

Washed pumpkin seeds.

I drizzled maple syrup of them and then sprinkled them with some Jamaican all-purpose seasoning (Grace brand).  It’s a mixture of paprika, black pepper, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, ginger, Jamaican pimento, celery, thyme, oregano, salt and sugar.  Yum!

Pumpkin seeds ready to go into the oven.

I cooked them at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.  I wanted to take them off the cookie sheet and put them in a pretty bowl to make them photo-worthy, but everybody started grabbing them.  I can’t blame them… they were unbelievably crunchy and delicious!  Sweet and salty.  I was one of the grabbers.

The cooked pumpkin seeds.

If you’re going to carve a Jack-o-lantern, don’t throw your pumpkin seeds away.  They’re just too easy to cook and they’re so yummy.  They can be saved in the refrigerator to sprinkle on salads or to take with you as a snack when you go out to do errands.  That’s what I was going to do with ours, but they didn’t last long enough.  No problem… I’m into this pumpkin carving thing now and we’re going to make more Jack-o-lanterns.  I plan on cooking enough seeds to actually save some.  Click here for 10 reasons to eat pumpkin seeds.

Happy Halloween!

Come grow with us!

Our Seedy Start in Zone 9b

Posted in Seeds with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2010 by PickMeYard

We enjoy growing plants from seeds.  It has become priceless family time for us.  Our 3-year-old did most of the actual seed planting because she is obsessed with it this year.  It was really heart-warming to see her expression when she noticed her seeds had popped through the soil.  She was absolutely elated.

Our seedlings are growing on tables inside our screened-in porch.

Seedlings growing in different kinds of containers.

We used several kinds of containers to start our plants in this year.  The short, clear containers are individual applesauce containers.  They work, but they’re a little shallow.  The larger, colorful containers are sippy cups that out-lived their tops.  They made great containers because they give the roots plenty of space.  We planted our bean seeds in those.   My favorite seedling containers are empty eggshells.  They make the seedlings easy to transplant and provide extra calcium.  

Seedlings for a Florida vegetable garden.

It’s important that the container be able to drain out the bottom.  My kids helped me to drill holes in ours.  It’s also important that the seedling containers be absolutely clean.  It’s best to disinfect them if possible.  I bought a huge box of popsicle sticks at the craft store and we labeled every single plant. 

One of my all-time favorite gardening books is called Grow Great Grub, by Gayla Trail.  Her blog is called You Grow GirlShe has so many clever and free ways to garden.  I love her idea to reuse the big lettuce containers that we sometimes purchase lettuce in from the grocery store.  We’re using one of those containers to grow more lettuce in (and the top as a tray underneath it).  Easy, convenient and free.  Love it!  I’ll post a photo of it when the lettuce sprouts.

Another fabulous book on gardening is Garden Anywhere, by Alys Fowler.  It’s my other favorite. She has even more ingenious ideas and fantastic information.  These two books explain so much and show you how to grow your food in an urban setting.  Did you know that hybrid plants resist insects and diseases but their seeds are sterile?  This doesn’t work for me because I like to save the seeds from a tomato that knocks my socks off.  I want to be able to eat that tomato again the following year.

Last year we planted all our seeds in containers outside on a big table in a nice shady spot.  Everything was labeled and we were so proud.  We forgot about the chickens.  They ransacked all our hard work in seconds.  Even our pet pigeons helped.  Then it rained.  The rain washed out the surviving seedlings.  Lesson learned.  That’s why our seedlings are safe inside our screened-in porch this year.  We still decided to lock up our chickens for the gardening season though.  They’re just too destructive to a newly planted garden.

Our chicken tractor is temporarily attached to our trampoline. The girls have a fresh place to forage.

We didn’t leave our seedlings in their containers for long this year.  They’ve been moved into the garden beds already.  The proper way to do this is called hardening off.  Since I don’t always follow the rules and we don’t have cold weather, I planted our babies right into our big garden beds.  I covered them with wire fencing and shaded them with palm fronds to protect them from the sun and rain.  They’re doing great.

An heirloom tomato seedling under wire fencing and palm fronds for protection from the sun & stray chickens.

Can you see the tiny seedling under there? It's next to the popsicle stick.

We placed pin wheels all over our garden to deter birds. So far, so good.

Come grow with us!

Lotus…An Exotic Treasure: Part II

Posted in Edible Rhizomes, Seeds with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by PickMeYard

We’ve decided that it isn’t such a big deal that our three ducks are eating our lotus.  I have extra lotus growing in pots, so we’re not going to worry about it.   The lotus spreads fast and easily… and we kinda like our little Indian Runner ducks.  They are playful, amusing and ooooh so entertaining.

Our three ducks feasting on our lotus.

They dive down to get to the roots. Duck butts in the air is a frequent sight around here.

The lotus flower blooms for several days after which the petals fall off  leaving a seed pod for new growth.  The seed pod is frequently dried and used in dried or fresh flower arrangements. 

Our lotus flower in bloom.This is the lotus flower after the petals have fallen off. The lotus seeds are inside.

The round, raised areas have seeds inside.

These are green, unripe lotus seeds that have a rubbery texture.

The seeds can easily be dug out with your fingers when they are ripe.  They are tough to dig out when they are still green. My Vietnamese friend said that in Vietnam they eat them fresh as a snack when they are ripe. She dug the seeds out of one of the pods in my pond to show me.  It wasn’t a green pod like in the picture above, but it wasn’t a completely dried pod either.  It was “in-between”. She was able to easily pull the seeds out.  She didn’t chew up the seeds, she just sucked on the jelly that surrounded the seed. 
We tossed the seeds back in the pond to see if they’ll germinate.  The lotus seeds are a common food in Asian cuisine.  There are a lot more uses than what I’ve described.  Grayson and I plan to learn more about the uses of this ooooh so cool seed.

Pickled Indian lotus root.

Grayson and I couldn’t wait to try some lotus root (it’s actually a rhizome).  We just had to know what it tasted like.  We bought a  jar of pickled lotus root at a nearby Indian market.  When we took a bite, we both noticed that it had long “hairs”  in it.  At first I thought somebody’s stray hair got into the jar, but Grayson quickly realized that is what the lotus root is made of… hair-like strings.  It didn’t have any flavor.  I think it’s one of those foods that has to be cooked with insider knowledge to taste good, like tofu. 
I would love to try it again sometime, but next time I want to try it fresh, not pickled.  Fresh lotus root would be much larger than the pickled root that we bought.  I found a great website called Just Hungry that has  more information and a good recipe.  I also found a blog called Albany Eats that has some great pictures of fresh lotus root.

Pickled lotus root.

 The leaves of the lotus are edible as well.  In Asia, the leaves are picked when young.  They are boiled and eaten as a vegetable.

Lotus leaf with a water droplet. I took this picture at dusk. It really moved me.

Lotus turns brown and dies back in the cooler months.  It goes dormant and then pops up in the spring and summer when it’s warm.  It doesn’t require any removal when it turns brown unless you want to remove it completely. If you want to keep your lotus, I find that it’s best just to let it be when it starts to turn brown. 
American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is  native to Florida  and grows wild in many places.  The rhizomes were a source of food for the American Indians.  It is another species of lotus and is different from the Asian lotus (Nelumbo nucifera).  However, the whole plant of both species is edible.
Pickers used to harvest and sell the American lotus from Lake Okeechobee. An article from The Palm Beach Post in July, 1987 said that pickers would get $35 for a bin full of pods.  A pod that was dried as an ornament in a flower arrangement would get 50 cents each.  In Lake Okeechobee, the lotus shades out and kills the noxious hydrilla weed and it doesn’t jam boat propellers.  It also provides a ton of fish habitat. The plant that gives and… gives.
We love our beautiful lotus in our backyard water garden. 
Come grow with us!

Happiness Grows Where Seeds of Love are Sown

Posted in Seeds, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2010 by PickMeYard

Grayson planted lots of sunflowers this year.  We just harvested the seeds out of one of the flower heads.  We dehydrated them and we’have them in a bowl on the counter for everybody to munch on.

Sunflower seeds from our garden for snacking

There are many varieties of sunflower (Helianthus annuus).  We thought we had a favorite but we’ve decided that we love them all.

Loring is trying to communicate with the sunflower by showing it a "baby yellow flower".

Did you know that the faces of most sunflowers turn to the sun and follow it during the course of the day from east to west?  At night they return toward the east direction.  It’s called heliotropismThere is a flexible segment of the stem that is just below the bud.  When the bud stage comes to an end, the stem stiffens and the flower blooms.  When they bloom they lose their heliotrophic activity and freeze in an eastward orientation.  Isn’t that amazing?

Sunflowers need full sun to grow and are easy to grow.  Some varieties grow to heights of 12 feet.  There is a report of one growing to 26 feet in Northern Italy.  After the Chernobyl radiation disaster, sunflowers were planted to extract uranium, cesium 137, and strontium from the soil.  They are also planted to remove lead and arsenic from soil.

Standing at attention, facing East

Sunflowers should not be planted in the same place each year as this helps to control problems with pests and diseases.

A sunflower growing a flower bud

The same sunflower as in the picture above

The sunflower is forming seeds in this picture. The petals have fallen off.

The sunflower seeds are now ready to be picked.

The sunflower seeds are mature and ready to be picked when the backs of the heads are yellow.  The sunflower head takes a long time to dry… patience.  They can spoil easily in warm weather.  The seeds will have black and white stripes and are easily picked out when they are ready to harvest.

The kids are picking the seeds.

Grayson is proud of his harvest.

We soaked our seeds in water and salt for a few hours and then dehydrated them in our dehydrator.  I left them in the dehydrator overnight at 105 degrees.  They are best stored in the refrigerator.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can place them in the oven on a cookie sheet and roast them for about 4 hours at 150 degrees.  I recommend getting a dehydrator if you don’t have one.  They are inexpensive at Wal-mart and Amazon.  They use a very minimal amount of electricity and you can make some of the yummiest food ever in them.  I have never used mine to make beef jerky, although many people do.

Do you have to soak the seeds first?  Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors.  When they are soaked, it releases the toxic inhibitors and removes bitter flavors.  It is important to discard the water after soaking nuts or seeds and rinse them well. We have all eaten plenty of nuts and seeds that haven’t been soaked and that’s okay, but they are more digestible and taste better when they have been soaked and dehydrated.  If you were going to make a spread with the sunflower seeds, they could just be soaked (skip the dehydrating) and easily blended.

Sunflower seeds are high in potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.  They contain 24% protein, 20% carbohydrates, and 40% fat.  They also contain zinc, magnesium, and vitamin E.  The shells are also edible and high in fiber. 

There is even a National Sunflower Association and a magazine called” The Sunflower“.

Come grow with us!

Seedy Starts

Posted in Seeds with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2010 by PickMeYard

Seed Catalogs

We order our seeds from seed catalogs.  The above picture shows what we receive in the mail every year.  Most seed companies have a yearly catalog they will send you.  We love these catalogs.  My son and I sit for hours and take notes of the new and exciting seeds that we want to order.  We spread them all over the rug and say, “oooh…look at this one!”  Most catalogs will give lengthy descriptions about each seed they offer and it is quite educational.  Some of these catalogs have gorgeous pictures and read more like a book than a catalog.  Our favorite seed companies are Landreths, Baker Creek, Johnny’s,  and Horizon Herbs.

We used to buy our little vegetable plants at the big hardware stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.  It was easy, but expensive. I learned quickly that it is much better to grow your plants from seed. It definitely makes the extra effort worth it.  Also, there is a ton of controversy over genetically modified food (GMO’s) and growing from seed allows you to control what you grow…and eat.  If you save the seeds from the foods you grow then you have even more control. Saving your own seeds is easy and fun and everybody should do it. 

I highly recommend the documentary Food Inc. .  Our future depends on these issues and how they’re handled.  For someone who is new to gardening and just trying to get something started, I do recommend buying the small plants from Home Depot or Lowe’s.  If you keep them in full sun and water them, you will be bitten by the gardening bug.  It won’t be long before you are ordering and saving your own seeds too.

A great way to store your seeds is in an air tight container.  Ideally, they should be in an environment that has 50% humidity and at 50 degrees.  That can be tough to accomplish.  It’s important that they be kept dry and in a place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much.  The cooler it is, the better.  Most seeds are viable for up to 3 years and some up to 10 years if stored correctly. 

One of my favorite authors, Steve Solomon, has a great idea for keeping his seeds stored.  He bought a pound of silica gel desiccant crystals (inexpensive) from a craft store and keeps them in a cloth sachet in the seed storage container.  The crystals are dark blue when they are dry and pink when they have soaked up all the moisture they can hold.

They can be reactivated by heating them in an oven at 212 degrees on a cookie sheet.  Don’t heat them any hotter than this.  They must be put into an airtight container after they have cooled for a little while. This is an important step so they don’t soak up moisture while they’re cooling off completely. You can do this reactivation as many times as necessary.  I bet these silica sachets would be great in the back of a humid closet as well.

Empty eggshells for planting seeds with labels

When I cook eggs I use a knife and lightly tap the top off the egg. After I cook the egg, I always rinse the inside out and I poke a hole in the bottom of the shell.  I let them dry in a bowl with a paper towel underneath to soak up the extra moisture.  When we plant the seeds in the eggshells we put the empty shells back into an egg carton.  When it’s time to put the seedling in the ground, we gently break off the bottom of the shell.  It helps to lightly crush the edges of the shell too.  It stays intact long enough to get it into the ground without disturbing our seedling and provides calcium to the young plant.

This week we planted some pumpkin seeds from Jamaica, pigeon peas from Echo, Hawaiian sunrise papaya, melocoton  cassabanana, garden berry naranjillo, Pandora striped rose eggplant,  jelly melon kiwano,  strawberry husk ground cherry, extra long dancer snake melon,  two types of bitter melon,  several unique eggplant varieties, Malabar spinach,  jicama (yam bean), New Zealand spinach, winged bean and two types of tomatillos. 

Summer in Southwest Florida can be extremely hot and humid.  Most vegetables and herbs the rest of the country are growing in the summer won’t grow in  south Florida during this time.  So, during the summer we grow lots of tropicals.

Seed packets

Come grow with us! 


A Box of Treasure

Posted in Seeds with tags , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by PickMeYard

We decided to organize our seeds.  We have quite a collection.  They’re mostly seeds collected from this year and a few from last year.  My son gets really excited when we run into seeds for sale so I always buy him a packet or two…or ten.  Grayson likes to keep his own collection of seeds, separate from mine.  He keeps his in a bin with a handle so he can easily carry the seeds outside.  I keep my seeds in the house in a wooden wine box.

We have been collecting seeds and we wanted to keep them in something interesting.  We’ve been using plastic baggies to store our seeds but I think it’s better to keep them in paper so they are ventilated, (away from light and moisture).  I found a wonderful template in a Fine Gardening magazine called, “Starting from Seed”. 

It’s a template to make your own seed packets.  It’s so easy an eight year old can do it.  We printed out the template onto different colored construction paper.  We cut it out, folded the edges on the dotted line and glued it shut with Elmer’s glue.  I used a q-tip to put the Elmer’s glue on the edges.  I taped the top closed so it would be easier to get it open once the packet is filled with the seeds.  We made extra so we’d have empty packets ready for seeds we collect.  Sure enough, right after we’d finished our project we found some Scarlett milkweed with pods bursting open with seeds.  Those seeds went straight into a packet.  You can download the template for the seed packets from the fine gardening website.  has many other fabulous and clever ideas.

Grayson calls this his box of treasure.  He’s decided he’s going to start a business from this project…collecting and selling seeds.  He said he would share with friends and family.  He’s collected Jamaican pumpkin seeds, white lotus, lemon grass, Indian pepper bush, a fuscia vegetable amaranth, a native Florida necklace pod, Scarlett Milkweed, and Surinam cherry.  Surinam cherry has just been listed on the invasive species list, but that is another post.  I have tons of information I want to share about the Surinam Cherry.

Come grow with us!