Why is seed saving a positive practice?
By seed saving, local genetic biodiversity and cultural heritage are conserved. In these last few years, Malta has lost quite a variety of crops that have been previously passed down from a generation to the next as seeds. These seeds are more adapted to our climate and local conditions, and hence are more resilient than imported seeds that are grown locally.
Most small-scale farmers locally can barely make ends meet, and due to this, they are more likely to buy seeds or seedling from abroad, instead of collect their own seeds and store them for next year’s sowing season. Due to this, there are little incentives for heirloom seeds to be saved.
Once a crop becomes adapted to the local climate the resources needed to grow this crop would be reduced. An example is a specific cauliflower that has acclimatised to the Maltese environment and requires much less irrigation than other cauliflower varieties.
If these seeds are not saved, their genetics will be lost, and the more genetic diversity is maintained, the more we can secure healthy harvests for years to come.
How to seed-save
When starting off with seed saving, it’s better to begin with something that is easy to grow. Certain crops such as lettuce & tomatoes, peas & beans are self-pollinating crops and only a few plants are needed to produce seeds.
You will need to wait until the seeds have matured before gathering them. Ripe seeds tend to turn from a whitish colour to a cream colour, or from a light brown to a darker brown. Look for signs on the plant itself to know when the seeds have matured, such as dry and faded flowers or flowers which have a puffy top (like the artichoke).
Pulp and fibre should be washed off as much as possible, then leaving the seeds to dry out on a napkin.
When seeds are ready to be stored, make sure they are completely dried out and are kept that way as they will end up moulding.
Most vegetable seeds can be stored between 2-3 years but this may vary depending on the vegetable type, some types have been known to sprout even after 16 years.
Seed exchange between people is a fun way to grow different crops and share both the seeds and the knowledge gained from growing that specific variety. Collect, share, grow and enjoy!
Friends of the Earth Malta gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from the European Union. The content of this article are the sole responsibility of Friends of the Earth Malta and cannot be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. The European Union cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information provided contained therein.
This project is co-financed by the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) and the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisation.