Saving Lettuce Seed

Photo Credit: Jennifer Knoch

Author: Jennifer Knoch

Has the lettuce you planted this summer started to look like a curving, Seussian tower? The lettuce will be bitter now, but don’t pull it out: if you’d like an abundance of seed for next year, let it live on.

Here’s what to do, in just a few steps:

  1. If you have multiple varieties, label them while you can still identify them. As the plant matures, they become harder and harder to tell apart. (You think you’ll remember, but  trust me, you probably won’t.) 
  2. The lettuce will produce small flowers, which the bees will enjoy. Keep waiting until the flowers dry out and have white, fluffy seedheads where the flowers were. 
  3. When the seed pods are starting to look dry, pull out the whole plant, and cut off the part with the seed pods. Store this in a paper bag for a few days until it’s dry and crispy.
  4. When dry, remove from the bag and hold the seed pods over a large bowl. Gently roll the pods between your fingers and seeds and chaff (fluff and other plant parts) will be released. 
  5. Once you have released all the seeds, go outside and you can either blow gently on the bowl to remove some of the chaff, or, if there’s a gentle breeze, grab a fistful, hold it about a foot above the bowl, and release it slowly back into the bowl. Much of the chaff will be carried off, while the heavier seed will fall into the bowl. 
  6. Label your seed with the variety and the year and store it in a cool, dry place for next year. Paper envelopes are ideal for storage, or if the seed is completely dry you can use a jar or plastic bag. You’ll have enough to share with the Karma seed library

Jen Knoch is the keeper and originator of the Karma Seed Library, now in its second year. She makes sure it’s organized, and adds many of her own saved seeds (which you can identify by the atlas-page origami). You can find the library underneath the members’ table, near the Terracycle/Gillette recycling drop box. To use the library, take any seeds you need, and try to save seeds from that crop. (Watch the Chronicle for more tips on seed saving.) Then put the seeds in labelled packages with the variety and year harvested, so that others can grow them next year. 

You can follow Jennifer’s gardening adventures on Instagram at jkknoch, where you can see videos about saving your lettuce seeds. And remember to subscribe to Karma Co-op’s Instagram channel at karmacooptoronto