Friday, July 4, 2014

Saving onion seeds

 Saving Onion Seed 

Sweet yellow onion 2nd year 

The Alliums produce perfect flowers, most of which are cross-polli nated because stigmas in each flower become receptive only after pollen in that flower is shed. Flowers in an individual umbel open and shed pollen at different times so crosses can and do occur on the same plant. Cross-pollination is performed mostly by bees. Many onions require vernalization (cold, winter-like temperatures for several weeks) before flowering occurs. Store for at least two weeks in a refrigerator.

Onions display a fair amount of inbreeding depression after two or three generations of self-pollination. Save and mix the seeds from at least two different plants.

Save seeds from non-hybrids, as hybrids are often unstable and breakdown. It's best to target heirloom crops for this. I save some seeds from hybrids that I have and use them only for bunching onions, as bulb size or long term storage isn't an issue. 

Clip umbels or pull out the entire plant as soon as dried flowers begin to appear. I will usually grasp an inner flower from the center , which is still green or semi green  and when it is cracked open, the Blackseed will emerge .

onion flowers fully fertilized and ready for hanging and drying 

Seeds will start dropping from some flowers at this time so check often. By removing a large portion ( or the entire stalk ) of the onion stalk , the seedhead willl continue to draw on residual moisture and minerals in the plant to finish off the seed production. Place a paper bag over the onion head and tied with string or place on it a rubber band. Then hang it upside down so that when the flower finally dries the onion seed will fall inside the bag .Allow to dry in cool, dry location for up to 2-3 weeks.

Fully dried flowers will drop clean seeds naturally. For small amounts, rub remaining flowers to free seeds. For larger amounts, rub heads over screens. Winnow to remove remaining debris.

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