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Harvesting seeds from your groceries  RSS feed

 
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Jesse D Henderson wrote:A question about avocados: I've heard of germinating them by suspending them by toothpicks in water. I'm running that experiment right now. But what would happen if I just bury the whole thing? Sometimes I forget about an avocado and when I cut into it there are roots starting. Has anyone tried this method? I would think it's closer to what would happen in nature.




I love this thread ~

Regarding Avocados I had looked up some info a while back that might be of use in this conversation -

"Avocado flowering patterns fall into two groups: "A" type and "B" type flowers. A-type flowers open female in the morning and male in the afternoon, B-type are male in the morning and female in the afternoon.
It is widely accepted that fruit production can be helped with the presence of another avocado variety, but it isn’t always required." It also can take many years to see any fruit, so don't get discouraged.

I can't grow Avocados where I live - Heavy Sigh..... but I hope this info helps those that can.
 
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R Ranson wrote:I live in part of the world where GMO foods are not labeled. Thankfully there are resources online that can tell us about which crops are grown in what parts of the world. My favourite being GMO Compass. Saving seeds from GMO crops may be just fine. I have no idea. I haven't knowingly tried it yet. My personal views on GMOs lead me to avoid them when I can, but I would love to hear experiences from people who have knowingly grown out seed from GMO crops.



There are only 8 GMO (transgenic) plant species currently represented in stores, and most of those aren't represented in forms usable for seed. Theoretically you might find alfalfa seeds or sprouts you could transplant. I don't think canola or soybeans and cotton seeds would show up as seed, just as oil (and having been fed to the animals that yielded the dairy, meat, eggs, etc.) Sweet corn wouldn't be usable as seed. Field corn likely wouldn't be found. I guess popcorn might be GMO. I'm assuming there are GMO popcorn varieties in addition to sweet corn and field corn. Sugar beets would only be in stores as processed sugar (and maybe as beet pulp fed to animals that yielded the dairy, etc.) I don't really even know what the inside of papaya or a papaya seed looks like, but that might be the only GMO seed you might find in a produce department. Zucchini and yellow squash can be GMO, but the seeds wouldn't be viable at the stage they'd be eaten. Theoretically another species of C. pepo (like a pie pumpkin with viable seed) might have randomly crossed with GMO summer squash.

GMO apples are on the horizon, but the GMO trait in apples is intended as a selling point to consumers, not as any benefit to producers (as with all the GMO traits currently in stores), so I expect GMO apples should be labeled, probably not as "GMO" but as containing whatever the GMO trait is.
 
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Eric, welcome to Permies.com.


GMOs are a very complicated issue; too muddy to get into here.

What interests me are the eight plants you list and how we might be able to discover their seeds in the grocery store.

Maize/corn: Pop corn of course is dry seed. Also, I've seen some bulk flint corn in the health food grocery store bins. Some of the sweet corn for sale, especially near the end of the season, are so old and tough, I can't imagine it would be much effort to dry the cob and save the seeds.

Soybean: Are available in their dry whole form in the bulk bin at the regular grocery store; in Asian grocery stores in packets; and also in some health food stores in town (in the town where I live that is). One can also find Edamame in the green grocery section of some of the shops, some times of year. These are often so old and tough, they aren't worth eating, but could easily be dried for seed.

Cotton: This is a bit more tricky, but not as difficult as one first expects. Most big grocery stores around here have a florists attached to them.

This is some cotton I picked up at my grocery store:



It came on a dry stock of several bolls. I separated out the seeds (tiny fluffy thing at the bottom of the photo) and they are growing in the other room as we speak. Not strictly a food crop, but still, they are unintentional seeds acquired from a grocery store.

CANOLA: I did see some seeds for sale ages back at a health food shop, but since CANOLA no longer has the full super-star health food status, I doubt one could get it anymore.

Sugarbeet: Not at a grocery store, but perhaps at a farmers market? Mangle wurzels, a relative of the Sugarbeet are rapidly gaining popularity here as an animal crop and as 'perennial spinach'. We can take the beat, plant it in the soil in spring, and grow seeds from it... though technically we probably need more than one plant for viable seeds. There is also a growing movement towards sugarbeet among those concerned with cane sugar.

Alfalfa: as you mentioned is available as a seed for sprouting. Sometimes in the bulk food section.

Papaya: This is a neat one. Admittedly I don't know much about them as they look like they are full of rabbit droppings and that really put me off wanting to have anything more to do with them. A quick tour around YouTube shows me that these 'rabbit droppings' are the fruit's seeds and that we can grow trees from them.

And Squash: Oh Beautiful Squash. It seems like such a diverse collection of plants to jam into one family with a name that sounds like squish. Winter squashes are pretty obvious and have been covered earlier. Around here, one can usually find overripe summer squashes like zucchini and cucumbers in the summer. Either at the farmer's market or the discount bin in the grocery store. These seeds are sometimes well enough developed to be scooped out, fermented, and grown. I've also bought luffa sponge in a grocery store, took it home, shook out some seeds from it. They grew into massive vines and made some decent sized fruit. Didn't get to dry them because the rains came, but have a few seeds left and might try again next year.


(edit for spelling)
 
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Sweet corn seed becomes viable about a week before it is typically picked for young and tender fresh eating.

Some type of pea pods may have seeds in them that are mature enough to be viable.

I think that fresh edamame would probably grow just fine if planted immediately while still wet.

The sugarbeets that I have grown, or that I picked up that had fallen off trucks, were sterile, and didn't make seeds.
 
r ranson
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I didn't know corn was viable that early. I have a lot to learn about corn.

Interesting about the sugarbeets.

I've only grown mangledwurzels so far, but I can definitely see why Carol Deppe would choose these as a good choice for perennial spinach. The leaves are so sweet and tender.
 
Eric Brown
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Ranson and/or Joseph,

When you talk about getting immature seeds -- I don't mean to beg the question by using the word "immature," but you know what I mean -- of sweet corn, edamame, sugar snap peas... to germinate do you have any basis in experience (your own or secondhand or something you read from a more or less authoritative source) do you have to believe it's a realistic possibility? Based on some of my own seed saving attempts from plants I tried to mature but that were attacked by squash bugs before optimally mature or something like that, I'm highly skeptical.

One thing that comes to mind, though, is a news story I heard maybe two or three years ago about doctors that found a garden pea growing in someone's lung. Several different news agencies seemed to report on the story. The story was that he had been eating regular green garden peas (or at least that's what I took them to mean), a pea went down the wrong pipe, lodged in his lung where it was warm and moist, and it started to grow. The story is extremely suspicious for multiple reasons, the first being that the "seed" wouldn't have been mature when it was harvested, but also that it would surely have been boiled, probably after freezing (which unless fully dried could ruin germination ability), and then it would have had to escape chewing and germinate at a temperature that I wonder if it weren't too warm for a cool season crop like garden peas. So the whole story was extremely fishy, but as best as I can remember, several normal news outlets just unquestioningly ran with it. Anyways, if that story is real, then there are lots of germination possibilities beyond what I'd ever imagine. I'm inclined, however, to think I should be even more skeptical about the news than I already am.
 
r ranson
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We'll have to wait for Joseph to weigh in about the corn, but with peas, beans and edamame, I have plenty of experience on the farm with saving seeds from what they call the 'shelly' stage (aka, the eating stage).

Edamame I don't grow anymore due to allergies, but peas and beans, I often pick 'young' and dry inside. Usually, 'though, I wait until the bean or pea has a slight bitter taste to it, which means the sugars have started to convert to long term storage. This is still a good deal younger than many peas and beans I find 'fresh' in the grocery store.

At certain times of year the morning dew is just too heavy. It makes the dry pulses go moldy in the shell as they are drying. Same problem in the fall if we get an early rain. To avoid a crop loss, I usually harvest the first third of the seeds early, then leave the rest to dry down in the field. I usually get 90 to 100% on my germination tests from the early harvest seeds.

It's difficult for me to see why the pulses wouldn't grow when dried at the 'shelly' stage. The germ (part that becomes new plant) is there quite early on, and once the pulse has filled out to the shelly stage, it has ample energy stores to start growing when the conditions are right. If the pulse was dried too early, before it had reached it's full size, it would have less energy stores and might have trouble getting started if growing conditions were not ideal for it. Many grocery store crops are designed/selected to grow in a very specific condition. Unless 'organic', the plant is expecting heavy agricultural inputs of water and other additives. This could be where the trouble came from. Not because the seed was immature (I can't imagine it would sprout if it was), but that it didn't have the kind of resistance that is so important in home or organic style gardening.


I think perhaps the the confusion comes from the fact that saving seeds is becoming trendy right now. As soon a something starts to hit mainstream, there are always authors and people willing to tell us the one and only way to do it right. Of course, if we believe them, then we risk ignoring the wisdom of our ancestors and other people who have been successfully saving seeds the 'wrong way' for so many thousands of years.

Joseph knows way more about these things than I do, so I hope he'll weigh in. In the meantime grab your library card. I've got some fun reading for you if you would like to learn more about how seeds work. I'm especially fond of Carol Deppe's work as she recognizes there are lots of ways of doing something - even if she's opinionated about which way she likes best.


A pea growing in the lung, however, I agree, that seems a bit far fetched. It's far too warm in there to germinate a pea.
 
Eric Brown
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R Ranson wrote:I have plenty of experience on the farm with saving seeds from what they call the 'shelly' stage (aka, the eating stage).



Would that be comparable to the moisture content of edamame or sugar snap peas or fava beans (the most likely fresh peas/beans one might find in a supermarket, I think, although quite rare even at that)? Obviously the types of peas and beans that are also eaten as dry beans can be harvested and eaten before fully dry, and I would consider any stage from big enough to shell all the way to just short of dry enough to seal up long-term in a jar and keep at room temp a "shelly," so I'm sure there's a part of that range that is mature and dry enough to finish drying and use for seed, but I would think things like edamame or sugar snaps would be practically unusable (or totally undesirable) for their normal use by the time they got even close to having any chance of germinating.

Whatever the answers to those germination questions, however, I don't see any real obstacles to someone wanting to avoid GMO's and considering seed from the supermarket. I think it's safe to say that GMO concerns should cause very little worry about saving seed from the supermarket and especially supermarket produce, at least at this point. I'd say the chance of unwittingly obtaining GMO seed from anything other than a papaya in a produce department is currently extremely low. The things that present the obvious seed saving opportunities (apples, citrus, several other fruits, tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupes, watermelons, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, other alliums, butternuts, buttercups, celery...)... none of those crops, at least what is currently in supermarkets, is GMO yet. And, really, the list of GMO plants in supermarkets is still so short that it's still very easy to just avoid those specific plants (which, short as it is even in its entirety, consists mostly of crops that most home gardeners never think about growing anyway.) Anyone that wants to avoid GMO's can easily find out which crops are GMO just as well from sites like the pro-GMO, Monsanto funded gmoanswers or anti-GMO sites like the nongmoproject.
 
r ranson
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GMOs are a very difficult topic to talk because a lot of people are very passionate about them. If we go too deeply into this, there's always a chance things might get messy.

Have a look at The Publishing Standards thread for more information on why we avoid talking about these in the main forums.


I am going to risk saying, that GMOs are a good deal more complicated than first appears. The obstacles to avoiding them, are not always well defined. Once you've been around the site a while, and have enough apples to participate in The Cider Press I would be interested in exploring this issue with you. In the meantime, Carol Deppe's book Breed Your Own Vegetables has a really good chapter on GMOs in the food system (in her later editions). (edit to add: Deppe is also not knee-jerk anti GMO, she makes a good argument for them in some situations... I've said too much, give the book a read and decide for yourself) Your local library should have it, and if not then they SHOULD have it and feel free to tell them I said so.



Now, back to beans.

It could simply be a difference in where we live. I know around here, different grocery stores in different neighbourhoods, have vastly different ideas of 'fresh' and 'young' and 'tender' when it comes to things like peas and beans.

I've never seen an edamame for sale (in the fresh section) that wasn't plenty old enough to dry down for seed. Even in Japan, the ones I saw there were plenty old enough. Things may be different where you are.

Sugar snap peas, on the other hand, sometimes these are a bit young for saving seeds. Most of the time, here at least, they are plenty old enough. Like I said earlier, I usually go by the bitter taste that means the sugars are starting to convert to starch. It's very subtle, and not everyone I've met can taste it.



I feel an experiment coming on.

Next time I'm at the grocery store (you too if you like - the more the merrier) I'll see what beans and peas are in the green grocery section. I'll bring some home (at least 5 pods of each) and dry them. Then we can do germination tests and see how well it did.

It's not the best time of year for us to try this test, so I'll probably want a repeat when we have local produce (instead of possibly irradiated ones from overseas), but it's worth a try.
Anyone else want to give it a go with me?


You mention 'dry enough' to dry for seed. I'm not certain I'm following. I have an idea what you mean, but I don't want to jump in on this on the chance that I'm misinterpreting. Could you explain why the dryness of the seed matters before we dry it for seed? Are you suggesting that they need to start to dry down on the plant before they can be saved?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Eric: My occupation is seedsman. It is my life's work to know these types of things: Both from personal experience, and from the literature.

Plants tend to put a lot of early energy into making a viable embryo. Then the production process switches to providing the seed with nutrients, and finally to putting a hard coat around it for protection.

Because I grow in a cold short-season climate, I have often harvested and planted immature seeds. They have a viable embryo, but the rest of the seed might only be partially formed. My first two muskmelon seed harvests fit into that category.

Tomato seeds become viable at about 30-35 days, but the fruits/seeds might take up to 60 days to mature.

While seeds may be viable at an early age, that doesn't mean that they are as vigorous as mature seeds that have had the opportunity to store more energy. Embryos often continue to grow while the seed is maturing, so more mature seeds can get a quicker more robust start than seeds with barely viable embryos. The process of embryo rescue is taking embryos that are too immature to have a good endosperm and growing them in a nutrient solution.

I suppose that I eat 100 raw garden peas for every one that I eat cooked. By the time a garden pea is big enough to be shelling and eating, it is well within the range of viability. And with a 24 hour germination time-frame, and the poor state of the medical system, it seems more than possible to me for a pea seed to germinate in someone's lungs before they could get an appointment to see a doctor.

I don't have any expectation that seeds need to be dried before they can germinate. I see plenty of pea, bean, corn, and squash seeds that germinate in the field without ever having dried down.





 
r ranson
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I am always amazed what I learn from you Joseph.

I knew the growing parts were present in the seeds, but I didn't know they could grow without going through dormancy first (like drying down). Yet, I've seen it with other seeds, I should have made the connection with beans and peas.

Thanks for telling us about this.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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R Ranson: Thanks. I'm currently running a series of germination tests to determine the best germination conditions for some cactus seeds. Turns out that I had great success with planting seeds from a rotting fruit in which the seeds didn't dry out before I planted them. I hadn't expected that.
 
r ranson
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Cactus fruit. Neat. Please let us know how it goes.

... I wonder... are any of those funny looking fruits in the grocery store that I never buy from a cactus? There were these yellow things with loads of fingers in the shop last time that looked like maybe... Now I want to learn all about cactus (magpie brain, loves a shiny thing), but so tired. Must turn off internet and get sleep!

First thing to learn tomorrow morning when I wake up: which grocery store fruits come from cactusessesses... second thing to learn, the plural of cactus.
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Because I grow in a cold short-season climate, I have often harvested and planted immature seeds. They have a viable embryo, but the rest of the seed might only be partially formed. My first two muskmelon seed harvests fit into that category.

Tomato seeds become viable at about 30-35 days, but the fruits/seeds might take up to 60 days to mature.


Do you find that this tactic of planting seeds from immature fruit encourages future generations to ripen fruit more quickly [at whatever cost that may be, whether it's reduced vegetative growth or smaller fruit or whatnot]?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Do you find that this tactic of planting seeds from immature fruit encourages future generations to ripen fruit more quickly [at whatever cost that may be, whether it's reduced vegetative growth or smaller fruit or whatnot]?



It's complicated... I'll give some examples... The first year I planted watermelons, I planted seeds from hundreds of varieties. 7 plants were able to produce viable seeds. So I had a 98% failure rate. Which means that I had a success rate of 2%. That is a stunning success in my climate. These days, ripe melons are common for me.

My first plantings of moschata squash were harvested green. The seeds were immature. There wasn't even one ripe fruit. 75% of the varieties didn't produce viable seeds before the plants were killed by frost. My moschata squash are descended from the survivors of an 88 day frost free growing season, and a 84 day season. Every plant these days produces ripe fruits in my typical 90-100 day frost-free growing season.

A similar thing happened with muskmelons. The first couple years they were only able to produce immature fruits with barely viable seeds. These days my muskmelons are producing ripe fruits up to a month earlier than my initial plantings. In my muskmelons in particular, quick fruiting is often associated with extremely vigorous growth early in the season. A plant that grows well has lots of energy available to make fruit. Precocious flowering has also been an important trait that is developing in my muskmelons. I have definitely selected for smaller fruits in the muskmelons. Smaller muskmelons mature quicker at my place.

I don't attribute these successes directly to harvesting immature fruits, but to harvesting any fruit at all. An immature seed is better than no seed at all. Then over the years, slight variations in days to maturity have accumulated in my favor as I selectively save seeds from the first plants to produce mature seeds. One of my most important selection criteria in many crops is quick maturity.
 
Eric Brown
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R Ranson wrote:I knew the growing parts were present in the seeds, but I didn't know they could grow without going through dormancy first (like drying down).



If we're talking about peas and beans and corn, seeds that are normally harvested dry, as opposed to tomatoes or watermelons, for example, then I think it's important to recognize that seeds commonly continue to dry down after they go fully dormant. It's very common for farmers to harvest field corn less than storably dry, artificially dry it (e.g. with propane heat), and then store it. Traditionally corn cribs accomplished the same thing with natural ventilation. Traditionally small grains (meaning wheat, barley, etc.) were harvested and shocked in the field to finish drying. They weren't storably dry yet, but that doesn't necessarily mean they hadn't gone dormant in the sense of nutrient exchange between the seed and the plant ceasing. I frequently put desiccant packs in jars with seed to further reduce their moisture content from normally-storably dry to even drier in order to further extend their storage life. One could do the reverse, too, without necessarily reaching the tipping point where germination begins. Perennial (tree, etc.) seeds, garden weed seeds, etc., commonly remain dormant all winter, largely due to temperature. I would assume that they commonly gain moisture after first making contact with the soil.

So, obviously, the point at which seeds become viable is frequently (if not always) short of the point of having fully dried down (sufficient, in the case of most vegetables, for us to store them in a sealed container) and not precisely the same question. (And, as perhaps with cactus -- which I know nothing about as far as seed saving -- some seeds, especially tree seeds, actually need to stay moist in order to maintain optimal viability.) But if we're talking about less than fully mature seed, I think we're talking about more than just moisture content. I certainly believe what Joseph said about it being possible for seeds to germinate even before full and actual maturity, and in some cases -- particularly with vine crops, for example - I suspect seeds can continue to mature (by which I mean more than just drying down) to some degree even after separating the fruit from the plant. The question with things like sweet corn or sugar snap peas (or any other garden peas -- I only say sugar snap peas because they would seem like the best bet to find in a supermarket) is how early these things can be harvested, i.e. a question of degree. The fact that less than fully dry seed can finish drying down doesn't speak directly and precisely to the question of maturity. I don't think anything other than actual trials and observations can speak to the question of actual maturity (although, then again, I suppose anything might theoretically be explained in terms of the molecular science, but that would likely be too technical for this context and for me.)
 
Eric Brown
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R Ranson wrote:GMOs are a very difficult topic to talk because a lot of people are very passionate about them. If we go too deeply into this, there's always a chance things might get messy.



I think the only question that concerns this discussion is which species and varieties are and are not present in supermarkets as GMO's. I don't think that's a question that people are strictly and particularly passionate about, as evidence by the full agreement of lists on pro- and anti-GMO sites like I've already referenced. As it concerns the questions in this thread, I also don't see how we could "go deeply" into this; the answers that would have any applicability to the questions in this thread seem very simple and non-contentious.
 
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R Ranson wrote:Thrilled to find out I'm not the only one.

I didn't know about celery rooting. Can't wait to try it.

Thanks for chiming in Joseph about the male sterility issue. I always forget to mention that.



Especially with the prices hitting $5 for celery.

I am glad I found this thread as I like experimenting with supermarket stuff too.
 
r ranson
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I don't think that's a question that people are strictly and particularly passionate about



I know I'm a person, and not people, but I am very passionate about it. I haven't decided if I want to be pro or anti GMO yet, but I want to be aware of it. The effects of undisclosed genetic material entering our food system is a very personal one for me, and this is why I'm being very careful not to get too far into the GMO aspect of this discussion. If someone else wants to jump in and can do so without letting things get messy, then by all means.


Eric Brown wrote:

R Ranson wrote:GMOs are a very difficult topic to talk because a lot of people are very passionate about them. If we go too deeply into this, there's always a chance things might get messy.



I think the only question that concerns this discussion is which species and varieties are and are not present in supermarkets as GMO's. I don't think that's a question that people are strictly and particularly passionate about, as evidence by the full agreement of lists on pro- and anti-GMO sites like I've already referenced. As it concerns the questions in this thread, I also don't see how we could "go deeply" into this; the answers that would have any applicability to the questions in this thread seem very simple and non-contentious.




This is actually very complex, and not as straightforward as it seems. Since it's not a problem that is unique to GMOs I'll talk about some of the ways that undisclosed genetic material can enter the human food chain.

Background (and keep in mind all of this is in way more detail in Carol Deppe's book Breed your own Vegetables - she says it way better than me. Anyone interested in this sort of thing, please read her book). There are lots of tools available to plant breeders, one of which is Genetic Engineering, another is cross pollination, another is (Joseph, correct me if I have the word wrong here) Wide Crosses. A Wide Cross is where we use traditional plant breeding methods (aka, take pollen from one plant, apply it to flower of other plant) to breed two unrelated or distantly related plants. With luck one seed out of so many thousand might be viable, and this seed can be used to create a new variety of vegetable. Or it might create a crop that is poisonous... it's all depending on which genes made the crossover.

Here is hypothetical example that shows you what a wide cross looks like: Say I want a tomato that is immune to somethingsomethingbad. The wild relative of the tomato, a deadly nightshade kind of plant is immune to somethingsomethingbad. I cross the two, and I may get a tomato that is immune to somethingsomethingbad, or I may get a tomato that kills me. More likely I get a plant that is deadly, but I can do some back breeding with tomatoes to make it not deadly, but immune to somethingsomethingbad. A bit more back breeding then it's delicious, not deadly and immune to somethingsomething bad. This may take a few years, in the meantime, I may have fruit that look like tomatoes but contain a recessive gene for poison. I grow these fruit to sell, but for my planting seed, I'm very selective to make certain that the recessive gene for poison doesn't manifest itself. But if plants were grown from the seeds in my tomato, they have a chance of manifesting this poison later in life... especially with inbreeding - which tomatoes do well. So that's one way that unwanted genetic material can manifest in our food chain. (of course, this depends on you knowing the difference between recessive and dominant genetic traits and how complex they can get, and back breeding and lot of other things I glossed over - the book I linked to above, explains this marvelously well)

Another way undisclosed genetic material can enter the food system, is if I was a wealthy capitalist kind of person and I had employees. Being a proper capitalist (which in real life I'm not, but let's pretend for a moment that I am), I don't pay my employees much. As a way of supplementing their income, they 'creatively acquire' some of the fruit from my breeding project and sell it at the local farmers market. An organic farmer is totally in awe of these awesome tomatoes, so they save the seeds and start growing and selling the tomatoes. Thus the genetic material from my plant breeding project enters the food stream.

Cross pollination between crops is also an issue. Last year Baker Creek Seeds issued an interesting statement about why they don't carry as many kinds of corn as they use to. They have their seed tested for PVP (basically patented genes) and GMO contamination so that they aren't accidently breaking the law by selling patented genes. They found that corn, especially had a high level of contamination of these genes from cross pollination with fields that were growing GMOs. Corn is wind pollinated out breeder so it's easy to pick up undisclosed genetic material, that's why, I suspect, these genes are showing up here first. But they aren't the only plants to experience this kind of contamination.

Cross pollination is also an issue with GMO (and other methods of developing new varieties) crops that aren't yet government approved to add to the grocery store. The GMO compass I linked to above shows a lot of different crop trials and what countries they are in. Say, the field is only a few miles down the road from farmer xyz who saves his own seeds. A bee or wind or whatever, can transfer the genetic material from the trial food into the seed crop of the xyz farmer. Farmer saves seeds. Now farmer has unwanted genetic material in his seeds, which is then used to grow food which is then sold in the grocery store...

Just because the government has restricted the GMO foods sold in the grocery store to 8 specific crops, it doesn't follow that only those eight crops are grown in the USA. There is a lot of experimentation and trials going on. And quite possibly (although I don't have any data on this - so it's a guess on my part) that farmers could grow things to export to other countries. So, though it's not approved to sell crop ABC in the US, maybe it is approved to sell it in country QWE? Maybe it's grown in one country, and sold in another? The genetic material from crop ABC could still enter our food system through the methods mentioned, or some of the ones I'm not going to mention because... If we had a 5th amendment in this country I would plead it.



See, very complicated. And that's just scratching the surface.
Hopefully this gives an idea that it's not easy to say "which species and varieties are and are not present in supermarkets as GMO's."

because I am passionate about it, I'm not feeling comfortable getting this close to the Publishing Standards for fear I may say something that could spark conflict. Have a read of Carol's book and by the time you've finished, I bet you'll have enough apples to continue this discussion up in the cider press.
 
Eric Brown
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I don't think anything I've said has anything directly to do with the pro- vs. anti-GMO debate. When you say you're passionate about "it," it seems like you mean something else by "it" than what I was talking about, namely the "strict and particular" question of which species and varieties in supermarkets are GMO. If it were a muddy and contentious issue, why are answers uniformly recognized by the prominent voices on all sides of GMO debates? Let's not stir up contention where there is none.

Sure, it's possible that regulated genetics that weren't approved and released for commercial production could have snuck out anyway, but I don't believe that's really pertinent to any questions about using seed from the supermarket. If things have snuck out they could be anywhere. No matter how much reason there may (or may not) be for wanting to avoid the kind of unknown possibilities you talk about, I don't see any reasonable way to avoid them without first identifying them at least as far as the species.

I don't know the technical details, but I'm sure it's the case that the kind of tests you mention for corn wouldn't even be available for the kinds of risks you talk about (not that tests couldn't be made, but what the test specifically would be testing for would very probably have to be known first.)

 
r ranson
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Consensus on the internet is not necessarily evidence that something is factual.
I'm passionate about where my food comes from, which includes undisclosed genetic material that can (and has) seep(ed) into the food chain. It was shocking what I learned when I started reading and experimenting with plant breeding. I've been very careful to stay as neutral as possible in this discussion and only only highlight that it is more complex than it first appears. Avoiding GMOs may not be as simple as avoiding a specific set of plant families.

Because I am passionate about it, I'm not certain how to go into any more depth on this topic without create a ruckus. Have a read of some of the books I mentioned, if you are still having troubles understanding how undisclosed genetic material can slip into our food system, then I would be willing to chat with you about it in the cider press (because things will get lively). In the meantime, I'm going to bow out of the GMO discussion part of this thread. Others can feel free to continue it if you desire.


Like I said at the beginning of the thread, it's up to the individual to decide for themselves how concerned with GMO they want to be.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I find a lot of varieties in the grocery store that are male-sterile. In a few of them, (carrots, potatoes, onions), the sterility was selected from naturally occurring populations. In many other species, the sterility was made in a laboratory by combining the nuclear and organelle DNA from different species. It doesn't matter to me where the sterility originated. I don't want to be growing plants that can't produce pollen, so I watch my crops carefully, and cull any plants that don't produce pollen. I commonly see male-sterility in grocery store produce in carrots, onions, beets, chard, radish, potatoes, sunflowers, broccoli, cabbage, bok choi, and turnips.

In many cases, the male-sterile plants are easy to spot, because they do not have anthers. Here is an example with carrots.

Normal Carrot FlowerMale-Sterile Carrot Flower





 
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I just planted some lentils as a cover crop. And I saw some cowpeas in a bulk bin that I will try. Mung and azuki beans too. Also tossed in some bird seed for millet and sunflowers.

A few years ago I also grew some lima beans from a bag that turned out to be bush beans. They grew well here and the plants survived for a couple years (no frost area). I had no clue they were short-lived perennials!

I've tried growing cumin seed, and while I got some to germinate, the plants were rather puny and didn't produce much.

Got some really good poblano seed from a store pepper. I chose the largest, ripest, close to shriveling one and let it sit at room temperature to mature as much as it could off the plant. Just germinated the last of those this past month.

A few years ago I grew many kabochas from many different store squashes. The plants grew well, but the flavor IMO was not nearly as good as those grown from packets, likely hybrids. Even grown in the same general area at the same time, most of the fruits lacked that dry nutty essence. Since our space, time and water are limited, from now on I'll stick to kabocha seed from packets.
 
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We had some supermarket garlic starting to sprout on our counter. So we planted it last week in containers and put it under our LED grow lights. Trimmed and ate the scapes yesterday... we'll see how it turns out!

Mindy
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I bought two butternut squash of different varieties at the grocery store last month. As is my custom, I tasted them before saving seeds from them. One of them was insipid. The other was decent. So I didn't save seeds from the one that was lacking flavor.

 
Rue Barbie
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I bought two butternut squash of different varieties at the grocery store last month. As is my custom, I tasted them before saving seeds from them. One of them was insipid. The other was decent. So I didn't save seeds from the one that was lacking flavor.


That's why it was such a disappointment that my kabocha growing experiment was such a disappointment. Every store-bought kabocha was tasted and if it lacked flavor its seed was not saved for planting. At one point, I had sheets of drying seed around the house with notes on the taste of each mother squash. I only planted those that were in the top taste profile. The thick fleshed, darkly colored, dryish, nutty tasting ones were selected and planted and labeled. Unfortunately the vines all intertwined in the garden so I could not tell which fruits came from which, and in the end that really didn't matter since most of them did not measure up to what I wanted.

It could have been the result of my culture or location (it's not that hot here). But since a few were indeed good, and the separate plants grown from seed packets (esp hybrid tetsukabutos) were also very good tasting, I decided that experiment was over for now in our drought conditions. Sorry to say I need to plant what has been dependable instead of taking the time to select what does well here with open-pollinated varieties.
 
r ranson
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I found some star anise in the shop today. First time I've found whole anise, not ground. Very excited, each little star has all sorts of seeds in it. I popped some out and put them in a pot.

Shall I google what they look like, or just be surprised by the outcome. The feel and shape of the seed make me think I'm gonna get a tree.
 
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Spoiler alert!





It's a tree!
 
r ranson
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I've suddenly realized just how many seeds are in my spice cabinet. Most of them are a few years old, so it's time to renew them. I was thinking take 1/3rd of what's left, toss it in the ground now. Then when the weather is warm, take another third and toss it in the ground. Don't even look up what the seeds will grow, just plant them in rows (so I can tell weed from seedling). What grows, grows, what does not dissolves back into soil.

sesame (only a year old)
mustard (yellow and black)
fennel, anise, dill, ajwain, cumin, seeds of that shape (might just plant one of these)
star anise
cardamon
coriander
nigella

Not sure if peppercorns or fenugreek are seeds, so doing a germination test on them. There are also some vanilla pods that are hard and dry. I'll be making vanilla extract from them, but wondering if the little dots inside the pods are seeds. I imagine it's a greenhouse kind of crop.

So many ideas.
 
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Vanilla comes from an orchid. Unfortunately, that's all I know about how they grow. Coriander and Dill seed are both nearly ridiculously easy to grow. I suspect the mustard will be also. I'm letting my mustard greens go to seed this year for the spice.
 
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I am enjoying the dialogue about fruit seeds and GMO sterility concerns over the last page of posts here. Not wanting to derail the convo, I have my results of sprouting a new bag of bean soup mix.

In Denver CO I used the Sprouts supermarket's bulk bin bean mix. Now in Connecticut I tried the Big-Y supermarket's organic store brand, Full Circle. They have a 14bean mix in a one pound bag for $3.50. Happy to say that other than the split peas and lentils, all the intact beans sprouted in 3 days! Here is my obligatory photo



 
r ranson
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That's fantastic! What a delicious looking mix of beans.

What are your plans for the beans? Will you be snacking on the sprouts or digging them in the dirt?
 
Brian Jeffrey
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R Ranson wrote:That's fantastic! What a delicious looking mix of beans.

What are your plans for the beans? Will you be snacking on the sprouts or digging them in the dirt?





I like to use them as a cover crop. They make lots of leaves and turn into a tangled mess without poles to climb. Easy to chop and drop too. The photo below shows a nice carpet of beans in between the production plants.

 
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There are many foods you can grow from kitchen scraps:

* Lettuce, cabbage, and bok choy are straightforward to grow and have a short, four-day growing period. They are more space intensive than herbs so a large deck or small garden is recommended for these leafy greens. Collect unattractive or tough outer leaves that would normally be discarded and place them in a bowl containing enough water that the bottom ends are submerged. Set the bowl aside in an area that receives ample sunlight, replacing water and misting leaves every other day. After three to four days small roots and new leaves should be visible. Transplant the sprouted leaves in soil and allow to your greens to grow to full size.

* Celery is one of the easiest vegetables to regrow, and the same growing techniques can be applied to romaine lettuce. Cut off the base of a head of celery and place it in a bowl of warm water with the cut ends facing upwards. Place the bowl in a sunny area, making sure to change water every other day. After five to seven days, new leaves will have appeared and the sprouted base will be ready to be planted in soil. Make sure the new leaves are uncovered and water generously. Harvest once the plant has reached full size.

* Lemongrass and Scallions: One of the most frustrating parts of making Asian food is tracking down the often-elusive lemongrass. Well here’s a secret: re-growing this hearty, aromatic herb is so simple that a child could master it. Within days you could be adding it to all of your stir-fries, marinades, and broths. To grow from scraps, cut the root end off of the stalk and place it in a container filled with water so that that the roots are fully submerged. Place the container in ample sunlight and refill water regularly. In about a week, new growth will have emerged and the plant can be transplanted into soil. It can be harvested once it has reached one foot in height (make sure to cut off just the amount you need and not the whole plant.) Due to its sensitivity to cold, lemongrass will need to be moved inside during the winter so make sure to choose a planting container that allows for this. Scallions can be regrown using these same steps.

* Basil and Cilantro:
Cilantro and Basil can both be regrown once their stems grow new roots. Place whole stems in a water-filled glass, keeping the leaves out of the water and making sure there is ample but indirect sunlight. Replace water every other day or as needed, and transplant stems once the roots are two inches long. New shoots should emerge within a few weeks and leaves can be harvested as needed.

* Ginger has been praised for its flavor and medicinal powers for so long and by so many cultures, that it’s incredible that more people aren’t growing it at home. A surprisingly small amount of energy and space is needed to grow this unique root. All you need is a pot, some soil, and a small piece of leftover ginger. Plant a thumb-sized piece in moist soil, ensuring the buds face upwards. Within a week there should be enough new growth to harvest the entire plant (including the roots). Remember to save a small piece of the rhizome so that you can replant it and continue growing ginger free of cost for as long as you want.

* Root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets, and parsnips all grow well from just their tops. Simply remove the tops and place them in a container of water, cut side down, in ample sunlight. Change the water every few days and observe for new growth and roots. Once roots are visible, transplant the tops in soil, taking care to not cover the green shoots. Carrot greens are edible and can be harvested for use in salads or pesto, otherwise wait until carrots reach full size and uproot.
 
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Thanks for a very interest topic. I love acorn squash but won't pay the grocery store price, but once years ago I did splurge and grew them from a grocery store purchase. My Mom always had avocado seeds on tooth picks in water on the window sill. I will now be doing more experimenting!
 
Casie Becker
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Probably more for a tropical permaculturist, but I have a volunteer mango tree from my compost pile this spring.

For my own sake I'm going to try growing it in a pot. If you look online you can find fruiting bonsai mangoes. I have a root make pot that my apple tree came in, I think it's big enough.
 
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One of my favorite, most reliable winter greenhouse vegetables is mustard greens that volunteered in the mulch one year. I must have dumped floor sweepings there after cooking with mustard seeds and some must have spilled on the floor. I tried to purchase the same seeds again but they grew out to inferior mustard greens, so I've kept replanting the seeds from the original volunteers.
Mustard-greens-in-greenhouse-2015Dec02.jpg
[Thumbnail for Mustard-greens-in-greenhouse-2015Dec02.jpg]
 
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R Ranson wrote:
- Carrots, celeriac, and other biannual root crops - either plant whole, or plant the top two inches of the root (including the leaf growing spot which must be healthy) in the soil when danger of hard frost passes, let go to seed, save seeds.



So here's my question. As a container gardener- if I do this in a container, it shouldn't need to be in a very deep container because they won't reproduce the root- right?
 
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I had no idea you could root the scrap leaves from cabbage etc. Seems to me just one head could equal a lifetime supply.

I've read about making pineapple cores grow another pineapple, but never had any luck at it myself.

The only zucchini plant I ever grew was from a saved seed. I swear that thing could have fed India.

Avocados: When I was a kid we grew them as shade-tolerant houseplants that could be conveniently pinched into any shape you liked, and some got big enough to take over the room, but they never bloomed. We had poor luck with the toothpicks-and-water method. But when we got lazy and just stuck them into the dirt, every single one came up. We'd plant them fairly deep (someone told us six inches, so that's what we did!) and they often took months to come up, but the success rate was 100%. -- The dormant seed is extremely cold-hardy, but the tree is one of the most cold-sensitive plants I've ever seen. One frost and the one I tried growing outdoors, which came up from a seed that had wintered in the ground, was dead to the roots.

Tomatoes: I once knew someone in Los Angeles who'd flung some fast-foot scraps into the front yard for the birds to eat... and had tomatoes come up. A few years later those tomatoes had completely taken over their entire front yard, despite that it was entirely in deep shade, and was never watered. It looked like a tomato jungle, but they produced well and were pretty good eating.

When store-bought onions get growthy, or if I just don't like 'em much, I plant them out front for their big beautiful flowers and excellent tolerance of hot, dry, or poor-quality soil. I must be doing something wrong, because every one I've ever planted has made seeds galore, and I get little onions coming up all over. Last year I planted decorative allium, and they're busy making seeds too. -- The onions bloom a lot later, so not likely to get any hybrids.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I grew fenugreek this summer from seeds sourced at the grocery store. I harvested the seeds about a  month ago, and threshed them today. I got about a teaspoon of seed. That's a big win, since that is about 15 times more than I planted. I grew them as transplants. Next time, I intend to direct seed them in early spring.
 
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