While admiring the beautiful amaranth that blossomed to over six feet tall in our garden, I could not help but marvel at the amaranth seeds that are forming as winter approaches. Unlike the plant, the seeds are so tiny that it is hard to imagine such a minuscule seed can contain the potential elemental parts of the plants in its dormant stage. When the time comes, beautiful and elegant looking amaranth will once again be the attraction in the garden.

If you like a particular herb, and it has done well in your garden, it may not be a bad idea to consider saving its seeds for the next growing season. Saving seeds is fun and inexpensive. If all goes well, you may not have to buy new plants. Culinary herbs, such as chives, dill, basil, chervil, cilantro, thyme, summer savory, and parsley can be sown from seeds. Another advantage of saving seeds is long term storage. If you are not able to plant the seeds the following growing season, your seeds will still survive although viability decreases with time.

Seeds collecting tips:

  •  Whenever possible, allow seeds to ripen on the plants. Seeds are ready when they turn brown or become a darker color.
  • Seeds are ready when they fall easily off the plants. Have something to catch the seeds should you decide to shake the seeds from the plants, or cut off the flower heads containing the seeds and place them upside down into a paper bag to loosen the seeds.
  • Plan to collect seeds from healthy plants, and from plants that you like.
  • Spread seeds out on paper towel or newspaper and let them dry in an airy room for a few days before storage.

Proper storage of seeds is one of the determining factors in seed germination. Seeds must be driedand stored in a cool place. Moisture and warmth will cause your seeds to rot. Use a glass jar or a paper envelope to store the seeds. It is best to avoid plastic container because it can trap any residual moisture that may remain on the seeds. Some people store their seeds in the refrigerator, and some place them in the freezer. And do not forget to label and date your storage containers.

Herb seeds can also be used in cooking. Below is a recipe for Garam Masala from Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs, posted with permission from The Herb Society of America.

Garam Masala

3 tbsp black peppercorns
3 tbsp whole coriander
2 1/2 tbsp dark caraway seeds
1 (1-inch) stick cinnamon, broken
1 tbsp cardamom seeds
1 tbsp whole cloves

Grind all ingredients in a coffee grinder to a powder. Store in a tightly covered container. This blend is good for seasoning vegetables, stews, and potatoes. It is also wonderful in tomato soup. Yields 3/4 cup.