Wednesday, 04 November 2015 00:00

What's That Seed? Wednesday

Today's "What's That Seed? Wednesday" is brought to you by seed saver Keeley Nixon! And it's a whole seedy smorgasbord.

Do you recognize these six plants? This one is a real toughy. Scroll down to find out what they are...


And they are, clockwise from the top left: scarlet runners, orca bean, unique leek, appaloosa bean, cilantro and danvers carrot.

Scarlet Runner

Phaseolus coccineus, also known as Scarlet Runner, Runner, Oregon Lima Bean or Ayocote in Spanish, orginated in Central America. And interestingly, even though there is the word "bean" in the name, many people grow runner beans for their looks rather than their taste. Climbers, these vines can reach three meters high and have lovely red blossoms - great for pollinators - before producing pods. That being said, they are perfectly edible, though with trace amounts of lectin phytohaemagglutinin, a poison found in higher concentrations in raw kidney beans, it is a good idea to cook them first.

Seed savers have bred cultivars of the Scarlet Runner over the years including Painted Lady, with red and white flowers, Butler, a stringless variety, and Moonlight, a self-pollinating plant with white flowers.

See the Appaloosa bean for seed saving instructions!

Orca Bean

Also known as Calypso beans, these are an heirloom variety. And they keep their pretty pattern when they're cooked!

See the Appaloosa bean for seed saving instructions!


Leeks, a group of Allium ampeloprasum cultivars, share the Allium genus with onions and garlic. They are native to the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East – not to be confused with wild leeks, or ramps, which are native to eastern North America. Leeks eventually made their way to Wales, where they became a national emblem. The legend goes that around 640 A.D. the Welsh king ordered his army to wear leeks in their hats to differentiate themselves from the Saxons.

Today, leeks, with their mild onion flavour, are found less on hats and more often in soups. They pair well with potato.

How to save the seed: Like other Alliums, the plant will produce a bolt with a ball of buds. Eventually these will bloom and begin seeding. When you start seeing seeds, fix a paper bag over the flower head and secure it to the stalk with an elastic band. This way, as the seeds begin to dry and fall, you won't lose any. Cut the stalk away from the plant and bring it inside to continue drying.

Appaloosa Bean

Phaseolus Vulgaris takes the name Appaloosa from the ponies of the same name and pattern. You can eat them as fresh green bean pods or dry them for cooking. Unfortunately they lose their pretty, distinct markings when you cook them though.

How to save the seed: Let your best bean pods mature on the bush until they are dry and brown. If your area is too humid for them to dry, cut the whole plant and hang it upside down indoors in a well ventilated area. The pods will rattle once they are fully dry. Crack the dry pods open, remove the seeds and store them in an envelope in a dry, cool place. Don't forget to write the variety's name and the year on your envelope. They can last up to five years before being planted again.


Coriandrum sativum, a.k.a coriander, a.k.a cilantro, is a member of the Apiaceae family.

How to save the seed: Allow the plant to flower and go to seed. When the seeds are mostly dry, but before they begin to fall off the plant, pull the plant up with the roots and hang it somewhere well ventilated to continue drying. You can lay paper underneath to catch the seeds as they fall.


Two thousand carrot seeds can fit in a single teaspoon. Today, your typical carrot plant produces a crunchy, sweet, orange root. But thousands of years ago, carrots began in Central Asia as a bitter wild plant sometimes used for medicine. Years of careful breeding and seed-saving eventually produced a plant with red, purple, yellow or white roots. It wasn't until the 16th century that the Netherlands produced the orange vegetable that we all picture in our minds, in honour of the House of Orange.

This particular variety is an heirloom developed by market gardeners in Danvers, Massachusetts in 1886.

How to save the seed: Check out best practices for growing and saving carrot seeds, by our Canadian program, The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, and Farm Folk City Folk.

Got seeds? Post your photos to Instagram and Twitter with #iamaseedsaver, or post them to our Facebook page, for the chance to be featured next Wednesday! Not on social media? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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