Friday, July 19, 2013

Grocery Store Discoveries: Unusual Garden Seed Sources

Do you only buy garden seed the traditional way, or do you look for seed you can sow in more unusual the grocery isles, bulk bins, ethnic markets and feed stores?  If you only buy seeds the traditional way you're missing out.  Not only can you save money by looking elsewhere, but it can be a real adventure.  Beware though, it is a teensy bit addictive.

Clues on the packaging.

The other day I snatched up a great deal on an 8oz bag of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods "Premium Poppy Seed" for $2.00 at a local liquidation market.  Yes you can find seeds there too.  Anyway, Bob's 8oz bags go for $3.39 each online, plus shipping.  Even at that price these seeds are a steal compared to buying the stuff in those little bottles for twice that price or seeds a single seed packet which would be at least that much if not more.  See, I told you it was a great deal.  And it ends up my bag of seed is about 1.5 cups worth which is a ton-o-seed but we love "poppy-seed-anything" around here so it won't go to waste.  If I told you my first thought when I spotted it was cooking I'd be lying though.  I snatched up these seeds mainly to see if they were viable seed I could plant.  Yes, that's right...I wanted to plant them. 

To find this out I would need to test the seed to see if it was alive, or in gardening terms "viable".  To do this I sprinkled a few seeds between two layers of moistened paper towel, then wrapped it in plastic wrap and stuck it on top of the freezer where it's nice a warm and waited a couple of days.

Sqweeee!  Look at 'em...they're sprouting!

This morning when I checked on of my little science project and found the seed was indeed viable (yippee!).   This is day three and there are better than 50% of them sprouted, with more on the way.  That means I can sow them and have my own crop beginning next summer.

Testing seed for freshness is also helpful if you are using them for cooking as the freshness seeds can effect their flavor, or as is the case with dry beans, determine whether we should even use them at all.  Dead dry beans do not absorb water and you can break a tooth on those puppies.  Other seeds used for oils can go rancid with age so if it doesn't sprout it could be dead which could also mean rancid and save you from ruining that lovely meal you are planning to use them in. Freshness dates are your only recourse with those.

So the general rule when it comes to viability is the lower percentage of seeds that germinate, the less fresh the seed is.  You can test any seed that has not been pasteurized with heat which would kill the germination.   Oh and one more thing...this is a great science project for the kiddos too. Get your kids hooked on this and you may find them scouring the stores for seeds to sow too.  I'm not trying to be an enabler or anything.

Poppy seeds are only one of the many types of seed you will discover that you can grow.  There are many dry (horticultural) beans, flax seed, wheat and other grains, chia (these are really yummy) and much more.    I wanted to start with Poppies because not only the seeds, but the pods for crafting and before that the beautiful flowers with soft grey/green foliage and I figured something in this mix of things might encourage you to give it a try.

Well, it seems I now have enough poppy seeds in that jar to sow a whole field of poppies so I guess I'll have to get busy and bake something.  Lavender lemon poppy seed bread or maybe some short bread cookies sound pretty good don't you think?.  Stay tuned, I'll be posting a recipe next.

Happy Gardening!

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  1. Hi Patty,

    I just picked up a bag of Bob's Red Mill Poppy Seeds for free at the local Salvation Army Thrift Store... when I did a google search to see if the seeds might be viable, I stumbled across your post... thank you so much for posting the results of your experiment... I'm looking forward to planting these... what a savings!!!

    1. Glad you found the info. Poppy seed remains viable for years if properly stored so check the date on the bag they are in and go from there. You might want to try a viability test scattering a few on damp paper towel and slipping this into a ziploc bag to see if they are still alive. Hope it works out well Paul.