Post by Joseph Lofthouse on Feb 24, 2013 15:31:46 GMT -5
Winnowing is a great method for cleaning lettuce seed. I winnow in a stiff breeze outside, or in front of a box fan. I typically pour seeds from one bowl to another in the breeze. The more seeds you are willing to lose over the side of the container the cleaner the seeds will be. Work on a tarp if you want to be able to undo mistakes....
Before winnowing, I like to screen the seeds through a colander, or other screen to remove as many of the stems and seed heads as possible. I have become a collector of colanders: Gotta have one with about the right size holes for every seed. Screening over a screen with holes slightly smaller than the seeds will remove small dirt that winnowing might not.
Winnowing at home won't get the seeds as clean as what the seed companies sell, but the seed will look much better when you are finished.
Lettuce seed is not suitable to cleaning with water floatation, because the seeds do not reliably sink.
Or you could just scrunch it all up in you hands to loosen the seeds then sow the lot without cleaning. You will have to thin them later but there is often no need to clean seed if you are just using it yourself.
2 possible solutions - sow the whole lot, and don't worry about separating it.
chuck it all in a shoebox (make sure there are no seed sized holes in the corners), rub it vigorously through the palms of your hands to break it up. Shake it, then tilt the box while shaking. Pinch the big chaff off the top, or move it to one side, should be concentrated seeds and fine powder in one corner. just sow this concentrated stuff.
Don't try and get every seed - you should have heaps if your plants are anything like mine. And don't try and produce commercially clean seed. Worried about bugs? = refrigerator for a couple of weeks takes care of most stuff. T
I've just cleaned up three lots of lettuce seed. Scrunched up in a pillow case to loosen the seeds, hand picked the branches, sifted remainder through a colander next to get rid of large bits, then poured a few times in front of a fan, a windy day would work just as well. Plenty of seed and plenty clean enough for my purposes.
Ray Silty loam over clay, pH 5.5, altitude 1000m, latitude 30deg south, 150 frost free days.
I'm glad to hear that my instincts weren't off, at least. After rubbing everything between my fingers to break up the clumps, I tried gently blowing into my cupped hand, with seeds and chaff, but some of the seeds blew away, so I stopped. I considered water, but the lettuce seeds looked like they might float, so I didn't try it. I wanted to use a mesh strainer, but the one of the best size was dirty, and in the running dishwasher. Ha!
I didn't actually have too many seeds -- just from one or two plants, and I probably didn't even grab all of the seed heads, since I have a small garden. I don't even remember the variety, but I figured the fact that it had volunteered earned it a round of seed saving. Call me a big sap!
I did ultimately plant with chaff and all, and put the rest of the seeds into an envelope. I'd managed to clean it well enough, plus the seeds were black, so it was pretty obvious how many seeds I had in each cell.
I always do this in the fall outside. I gently pour the seeds back and forth with at least 6-8 inches between pouring cup and receiving pan. I think its better to do this on a still day. Hold the cup above eye level and slowly pour towards the pan. Gently blow at the stream of the seeds as they fall. You can adjust the blowing so as to allow the seeds to fall while the chaff should blow away.
I also put small seeds in a shallow rectangular pan I have with little bumps. I hold the pan at an shallow angle so one corner is down. By tapping on the side that is up repeatedly the smaller dust will tend to settle towards the lowest corner while the seeds,with steady continuous tapping of the high side edge, will climb up the slope along the edge of the pan. I periodically scoop out the seeds and repeat. I kinda stumbled on this technique trying to separate summer savory seeds (tiny) from the dried powder of their seeds heads. Worked remarkably well. Maybe I'll try to take some pictures of this technique next time I have a chance,