Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Caper, Caper, Seed Orientation, Dehydration with the Sun

Dear Folks,

Suzanne Vilardi of Vilardi Gardens and I have been working on our "Caper Caper Mystery" project for almost 3 years now.  Caper (Capparis spinosa) plant seeds are notoriously difficult to germinate.  We want to find a reliable way to germinate seed and grow caper plants for production of Capers and Caper Berries here in the valley.  (Suzanne is known for her amazing tomato, herb etc. transplants available at local farmers markets and some of the valley nurseries - check out her facebook page (above) for times and locations for purchasing.)

This is a picture of the first flower this spring on one of the 'mother' plants. (Taken May 8th.)

As we go along I will give you some history of the project and more updates.

Sowing Seeds

As a general rule I recommend soaking your seeds overnight (except beans and peas - only soak for 8 hours maximum).  This speeds up germination time (less days) and increases germination rate (percentage which germinate).

Underwood Gardens (aka Terroir Seeds) has a nice article on seed sowing orientation.  They make a good point about sowing seeds in the best position for faster growth (particularly with large seeds like pumpkin, melon, squash and beans).  Give a look.  Also they are a reliable source for non-GMO seeds.

Going into our heat, use existing plants to act as nurseries for the seed, sowing just under the edge of the plants.  This protects the seeds from birds and gives a little canopy to cool the soil.

When sowing never let the sown soil area dry out going into our heat.  The seeds may already be germinating under ground, but if they hit a dry/hot soil point, they will die before every breaking the surface.

Solar Drying aka using the sun to dry foods

Last year I was able to purchase the trays for an electric dehydrator without the base.  Why would I do that, you ask?  Because the dehydrator I like to use is the sun and it works perfectly.  (I also got the set of trays for $2 :-)

I sliced up a bunch of our apples - dumped them in lemon water to prevent browning and they are drying in the sun as I type. (I do not peel our fruit when I process it.) Some of the trays I left plain and some I sprinkled cinnamon sugar on them.  Once dried they store wonderfully in mason jars in our pantry.  In a pinch I could cook them up for applesauce or make a pie (I love snacking on them.)

Back in late March when we had some nice 80 degree days I dried some citrus slices, herbs and I tried drying asparagus for later sauteeing (the asparagus was a fail).  Herbs dry very well in the sun as did the citrus.  I can use the citrus either for decoration on foods or I can hydrate by boiling, add some sugar and make tiny batches of marmalade.  (Check out my marmalade recipes which make the most of our citrus as a real jam/preserve and note jelly flavored with a few pieces of rind.)

After the apples are done - I will make up a batch of seed crackers and dry them in the sun also.  I will do a new blog post on the crackers with recipes and post a picture.

. . .

Mark Your Calendars The Next Free Seed Share at the Mesa Community Farmers Market is June 26th, - 9 a.m. to Noon - you do not need to share seed to pick up some in time for fall sowing (which begins late July / early August).

Have a great time in the garden and the kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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