Growing Fenugreek from seed

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A few months ago I thought I’d try to sow some dry Fenugreek seeds from the store as an experiment, and they thrived in a sunny spot in the garden during the winter and spring. Yesterday, as the plants were already exhausted, I pulled them up and sowed some beans instead.

Fenugreek seeds grow in pods, much like peas and beans, (though the pods are smaller, of course) and can be eaten both fresh and dry. The plant has many beneficial properties, among them lowering blood sugar and stimulating milk production in nursing mothers. The dry seeds can be soaked and made into hilbe spread, after the Yemenite tradition, and also added to soups and stews.

For more information on using Fenugreek, read here.

Spring, an exciting thing

I spent some time in the garden this morning (while I really should have been getting the house in order for Pesach, but never mind) and as you can see, the sage is in full bloom and the first beans are hopefully poking their heads up.

My tomato seedlings look a bit puny,but I hope they will improve as we get more sunlight hours.

Moreover, we already have our first two broodies of the season! So hoping for some chicks soon.

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Our neighbor’s dog has had a litter of puppies. My kids are delighted. Here you can see the mother dog looking on intently (but not at all in a hostile manner) as Israel is gently touching one of her babies.

The garden is coming to life!

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After a long time asleep, our trees are finally coming back to life! This week I was excited to see these beautiful snowy-white apricot blossoms. It is a young tree, only about 4-5 years old, but last year it bore excellent fruit. Other trees are stirring awake as well, the rosemary and sage are in bloom, and I have a bunch of tomato seedlings started indoors, from seeds we had never tried before, which promise especially large tomatoes (I don’t recall the exact name at the moment. It’s written on the packet). We ordered some and thought we might as well give it a go this year.

Overall, spring is here in earnest: a beautiful and exciting season, full to burst with juices of life but, alas, also of necessary chores such as getting the house in shape for Pesach, which prevents me from being outdoors as much as I would have liked in this glorious weather.

Melons

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Above is one of the melons we grew this season. We only grew a couple of vines for the experiment, from seeds we saved a couple of years ago from an especially delicious specimen (which we bought at the store, by the way). We planted rather late and the melons sure took their time to ripen, but the wait was definitely worth it. The fruit was small, but very fragrant and sweet, since we allowed it to fully ripen on the vine before picking. I think I’m going to save seeds from this one too, to plant next year.

And, yes, in the background you can see some more hot peppers! The bounty sure doesn’t stop, and I’m going to make some more hot sauce soon.

You can read more about growing food from supermarket scraps here and here.

Growing food from supermarket scraps: update

Following my previous post on saving seeds from supermarket vegetables, I’ve decided to post an update. This week we have actually harvested the first tomatoes we’ve planted from seeds which came from a supermarket tomato. They sprouted and grew fast into little bushes which produced plenty of cherry tomatoes – which, though they didn’t exactly resemble the mother plant, were highly edible.

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Our melons, too, are ripening fast, though we haven’t actually tasted one yet. These were grown from seeds we had saved from an especially delicious store-bought melon, and kept for about two years.

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Bottom line: it is possible to save seeds from supermarket vegetables, though a reputable seed company will give you better reliability and variety, and higher germination rates.

Supermarket seeds: grow fresh food from store-bought produce

Not long ago, my husband brought home a packet of coriander (cilantro) seeds from the store. They are great in soups, stews and many other dishes. Then, by a stroke of inspiration, he said, “hey, why don’t we try to make them grow?”

I wasn’t sure the seeds were viable, but we had nothing to lose, right? I tried to plant a few and, while only about 30% germinated, it was alright by me as we had so many and bought them so cheaply. A tiny packet of planting seeds would have cost us a lot more (yes, even taking into account the low germination rate).

Below, you can see one of the new coriander plants grown from these seeds. The other plants in the photos – cherry tomatoes, peppers, melons and beans – were likewise grown from supermarket produce.

All these wonderful plants were grown from scraps most people toss into the garbage without a second thought. 

There’s no doubt it’s always better to purchase high-quality seeds from a reputable company. This way you know exactly what you’re getting and the germination rate, with proper handling, is high. Supermarket vegetables are often hybrids, so saving and planting seeds from them can have unpredictable results. But I still think supermarket-produce seeds deserve a chance. They are very cheap, readily available, and most likely you already have some on hand. There’s certainly no loss (except for a little work and some garden space) in trying, and it can be a fun experiment.

I haven’t actually collected a harvest from these supermarket-originated plants yet, but when I do, I plan to write a follow-up post and tell you whether the produce was any good and how much it resembled the mother plant.

Collecting dew: another step in water conservation

There’s a lot of talk about collecting rainwater as a frugal and ecology-conscious way to reduce water waste, and that’s certainly a good thing and a project we hope to take up in the future. I do have to say, though, that in Israel we don’t get any rain to speak of approximately from May to October. What we can do in the summer months, without any special equipment, is collect dew.

Our system is simple. We have a plastic awning at the entrance to our home, and when I step out early in the morning I can see puddles of water around it. By placing buckets in strategic locations, and then combining their contents, we get roughly a bucket of clean water every day this way. We primarily use it in the garden, but if we used cleaner containers I wouldn’t hesitate to drink it. It’s easy, useful, doesn’t cost anything and could turn out very important in a survival situation. I expect we could harvest a lot more water if we set up a water catchment system all around our roof, too.

The dew we collect is used daily to water our garden. Our peppers already look very promising!

I have noticed that dew is especially abundant when a cool, quiet night follows a hot day. We have many such nights during the summer, as we live up in the hills and usually experience very pleasant temperatures once the sun sets. In Israel, and in other countries with an arid climate, dew collection can be done on a larger scale and play an important role in water conservation.