Lots of times we eat very tasty fruits, vegetables, and flowers. What do you do with the seeds? If you are a farmer or gardener, I am sure you will keep those seeds.
The other day, we ate the biggest, tastiest, and sweetest duhat (black plum or java plum, syzygium cumini). My friends were surprised when I asked for the seeds from their plates. “May laway na yan at di mo makakain. (It has my saliva and you wouldn’t eat it). Another friend said, “Hmm, magtatanim na naman yan. Ibigay nyo na at para sa susunod ay di na tayo bibili.” (Hmm, she will plant those seeds. Give her the seeds so next time we don’t have to buy the fruit.)
They are a curious lot. “Why do you need all those seeds? You don’t have enough space in your garden for another tree.”
My reply is this 300-year-old English adage that sagely predicts “One to sow, one to grow, one for the mouse, and one for the crow” There are unproductive seeds or seeds that are empty and dead, wet seeds or ones that should be planted immediately like the duhat seeds lest they dry out and die, and dormant seeds or seeds that take a long time to germinate. This last ones should be pretreated, e.g. soaked in boiling water before planting.
Generally, plants are grown from seeds. Other planting materials are cuttings, roots, tubers and plantlets or suckers. Let’s talk about seeds.
It is important that you get vegetable seeds from known variety or seed stores. I usually get mine from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). They have offices all over the Philippines. Here in Manila, they have offices and stores in San Andres Bukid, Manila, and Visayas Avenue, Quezon City. Pictures in this spread are taken from the charts at BPI Manila. Other seed dealers are Allied Botanicals, Harbest, and East-West.
There are open pollinated (OP) seeds that give you more seeds to plant.
There are also F1 hybrid seeds that are pollinated from selected plants called inbreds, which are from two varieties with characteristics that can contribute to the superiority of the resulting plants. F1 means first filial generation seeds/plants or animal offspring resulting from a cross mating of distinctly different parental types. Hybrid seeds are expensive because they grow better and give you uniform and abundant fruits or leaves. However, seeds from hybrid plants are not as good as the original hybrid. Discard them.
Why grow from seeds when there are easier and quicker way to get the best fruits, vegetables and flowers? Well, one reason is that you can try the latest variety of plants developed for better taste and disease resistance.
Two, you can eat and save seeds of exotic plants anywhere in the country or the world. You don’t have to carry the entire plant that might weigh a ton. In the USA, I buy these seeds from Walmart, Lowe’s, or Ace Hardware. I now have plum-planting material.
Three, you can plant your favorites and enjoy picking them fresh and clean.
Four, you can save money by growing veggies, flowers, and fruit trees from seeds. Small and large planting materials are expensive. The less expensive ones are not from seeds, but could be from cuttings. At Sidcor Sunday Market, Quezon City, an ampalaya (bitter gourd or bitter melon, Momordica charantia Linn) seedling costs Php10. You can just ask for discarded ripe ampalaya from your favorite green grocer, get the seeds, wash them, sow them—in a few days you have your own ampalaya seedlings.
Five, trees from seeds are sturdy and could withstand adverse weather conditions better. There are centuries-old trees inside UP Diliman and UP Los Baños, obviously from seeds. Trees from cuttings are unable to develop primary or principal roots so they are easily uprooted. No matter how big they are, these trees can easily break.
Six, you will enjoy the wonders of planting a seed and seeing it grow later. The sight of a seemingly inert seed coming to life slowly but surely is just amazing.
Make sure you read the back of the seed packet carefully for information and recommendations.
- Light requirements, from shade to full sun
- Indoor or outdoor sowing
- Seed planting depth, spacing and thinning or planting guidelines
- Sowing schedule. Some seeds are best suited for planting in certain months, while some can be planted anytime. We have a list here.
- Care for your seeds. Seeds are alive and they absorb oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Store them in airtight jars in a cool, dry place or inside your refrigerator.
Here’s a guide from BPI on the best time to plant and grow vegetable crops:
Can be planted anytime, all season:
- Sitaw (Hyacinth bean)
- Leaf mustard
- Okra (Lady’s fingers)
- Kangkong (Tropical spinach)
- Patola (Loofah)
- Pole sitao (Stringbean)
- Abitsuela (Snap Bean)
- Black pepper
- Gabi (Taro)
- Kamote (Sweet potato)
Best to plant in September-January:
- Bulb Onion
- Musk melon (Cantaloupe) up to February
- Garbanzo (Chick Pea)
- Potato (Irish)
- Sweet pepper
Best to plant in October-March:
- Upo (Botle gourd)
- Pakwan (Watermelon)
Best to plant in November – January:
- Squash (Pumpkin)
- Sweet Pea
- Patani (Lima bean)—November
- Mungo (Mungbean)—February-March, May-June
- Sweet corn—May-June
- Peanut—May-June, September-October
- Soybean—January-February, May-June, September-October
It is amazing that the veggies, flowers, and trees of the future are in just a few seeds of today. Let’s discuss more about seeds in my next column.