Quinoa Tabbouleh Recipe: Great Gluten Free Alternative

gluten free quinoa tabbouleh

Wow, this move has really been quite a process. I feel like the sea of boxes is never-ending. That said, I am incredibly grateful that we found our way to a new house. I love it and look forward to settling in over time.

Despite the move and the chaos and the upheaval, we’ve still got to eat (although full disclosure, I took these pictures while still in my parent’s house. I’m lucky if I can find a mixing bowl here at this point). This tabbouleh salad is a summer favorite of mine. It is not complicated to make; mostly chop and mix. It has great fresh summer flavors, highlighted by the lemon, parsley, and mint. I often bring it along to summer parties and pot lucks. Using quinoa in place of the traditional bulgur wheat makes this tabbouleh gluten free.

Many quinoa recipes use a higher water-to-quinoa ratio than this one, which I find results in a mushy quinoa. This ratio will yield fluffier grain (well, technically a seed). While we’re on the subject, if you are not familiar with cooking quinoa it is a little different than most other seeds and grains. Quinoa is naturally coated with saponins, which if left on can give cooked quinoa a bitter or otherwise unpleasant taste. The simple solution is to rinse the quinoa before cooking to remove the water-soluble saponins. I place my quinoa in a large glass measuring cup, cover with water, and stir around to rinse. I then strain using a fine strainer, and repeat the process until the soaking water is clear, not cloudy. If you can find a large strainer with a fine enough mesh, you can rinse directly in the strainer until the water runs clear and is not foamy at all. My larger strainers have larger mesh and the quinoa tends to escape. Do what works for you. Also, quinoa is a bit magical. After cooking, the little seed looks as though it has sprouted a tail. This is normal and should not be cause for alarm.

I like to minimize the juiciness of my ingredients in the recipe to avoid a mushy, watered down salad. I recommend using plum tomatoes and English (hothouse) cucumbers because they are less watery than traditional tomatoes and cucumbers. If you only have traditional versions on hand, remove the seeds before using and this will help to reduce liquid. Okay, on to the recipe.

My plum tomatoes were tiny so I snuck in an extra. Not pictured: water.

My plum tomatoes were tiny so I snuck in an extra. Not pictured: water.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. water
1 c. quinoa
pinch salt
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 t. lemon zest
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1 medium English cucumber, diced (or 1/2 of a large English cucumber as I have shown)
1 bunch green onions, diced
1 bunch fresh parsley (approximately 1 cup), chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint (approximately 1/3 cup), chopped

1. Rinse quinoa as directed above. Drain.
2. In a saucepan, bring the water and pinch of salt to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa and reduce flame to low to simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool, covered. Once cooled to room temperature, remove cover and fluff with fork.
3. While quinoa cooks and cools, dice the tomatoes, cucumber and green onions; chop the parsley and mint. Add them all to a large bowl.

Veggies and herbs in the bowl. Tomatoes are trying to hide, can you see them?

Veggies and herbs in the bowl. Tomatoes are trying to hide, can you see them?

4. Top veggies and herbs with olive oil, and salt. Mix to coat.

Seasoning the quinoa tabbouleh

5. Wash and dry lemon. Since you’re eating the peel, it’s really ideal to use an organic lemon, if possible. Zest with microplane grater, removing just the outer yellow part, not the bitter white pith, to yield 1 t. zest. Add to bowl. Cut lemon in half and juice to yield 1/4 c. lemon juice. Add to bowl as well.

zested lemon

zested lemon

juiced lemon

juiced lemon

6. Add cooled quinoa to bowl. Realize that you’re going to need bigger bowl to mix it all without making a mess (this may only happen to me). Mix until thoroughly combined.

Gluten free quinoa tabbouleh recipe

7. Adjust seasoning as desired. Transfer back into pretty bowl, and enjoy!

gluten free quinoa tabbouleh

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Barganic Alert: Vegan Cuts Seven Days of Summer Sales Continues

Vegan Cuts 7 Days of Summer Sales

You may have seen me tweet about this earlier in the week, but Vegan Cuts is still revealing new deals in its “Seven Days of Summer Sales” promotion. Some of the deals have already sold out, but great bargains remain. As featured in the Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes, Vegan Cuts is a subscription services that sources and sends quality, 100% cruelty-free cosmetic, skin care, and beauty products to their monthly subscribers and also offers a vegan snack subscription. On occasion, Vegan Cuts curates limited edition themed boxes available for purchase individually. Several of these themed boxes are part of the Vegan Cuts Seven Days of Summer sale, including:

Vegan Cuts camping Box

1. Vegan Camping Box which includes $55 worth of trail essentials for $22.00 (shipping included).

Vegan Beauty Box

2. Vegan Beauty Box with over $40 in paraben and cruelty-free beauty products for $15.00 (shipping included).

Vegan Cuts Facial Care Box

3. Vegan Facial Care Box with over $170 in natural and organic facial care products for $39.00 (shipping included).

Vegan Men's Grooming Box

4. Men’s Grooming Box I featured this box previously as a crunchy father’s day gift idea. Now this collection of 12 vegan products for men has been reduced to $29.00 (shipping included). Value: $100+

There is one final deal that will be revealed by Vegan Cuts tomorrow, so make sure you check back on their Seven Days of Summer Sale. With free shipping on every item there’s no need to wait until tomorrow’s reveal to get today’s deals. Which ones are you tempted to try?

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services. They are not endorsements, nor am I compensated in any way. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted**

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Kings Road Apothecary Herbal Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-July 2015 (Lime and Coconut)

I took advantage of the Spring Solstice sale at Kings Road Apothecary in March and signed up for a multi-month subscription to the “Surprise Box,” which brought the individual box price down to $47.38 each including shipping. Each monthly box features four herbally-based, small-batch, handcrafted items that center around a theme. Box pricing recently increased to $53.50 plus shipping when ordered individually, but multi-month subscriptions include shipping. The July theme was “Lime and Coconut.” As of this writing the July box is still available for purchase as is the August box. More details about the August box below. To see my other Kings Road Apothecary unboxing and reviews from prior months, look here.

Please enjoy the complete unboxing video, with my oldest child Eva as the special guest star. If you prefer to skip right to the photos and the nitty gritty, keep scrolling down. Also, if you are newer to herbalism and herbal-based products, I have explained many frequently-used herbalism terms in the Crunchy Parent Herbal 101: Glossary of Common and Unusual Herbalism Terms and 50+ Great Ideas for Using Herbs.

Kings Road Aothecary July 2015 Subscription Box Enclosures

The box came with the entire contents wrapped in a hand-dyed piece of seafoam green cotton muslin and tied with kitchen twine. All items were carefully protected with bubble wrap, individually wrapped in green-themed coordinated tissue paper, and tied with kitchen twine. In addition to the four herbal items, the box also came with a copy of a beautiful drawing of a beachy palm tree scene penned by Rebecca exclusively for this box. On the back of the drawing was a recipe for the spiced hibiscus syrup and for a hibiscus mojito. In addition, there was a letter from Rebecca describing the box contents, and an invitation to post box images on instagram to enter to win a little gift.

Kings Road Apothecary July 2015 Subscription Box-Lime and Coconut

As I’ve mentioned before, each month Rebecca picks the theme for the box, gathers plant material and takes the month to reflect on the plants and experiment with new recipes for products. Her four favorites end up in the box. This month’s winners started with a small (2 oz.?) bottle of spiced hibiscus syrup. This is the same syrup that was included as a recipe on the back of the drawing. I am delighted that Rebecca shared the recipe because this syrup is beautiful and delicious. I can see it making its way into a lot of summer drink recipes, including the Hibiscus Mojito recipe, also included on the back of the enclosed drawing. Unfortunately, the syrup was also leaky. It tended to cling to the threads on the screw top so that when the cap was removed, the syrup ran down the bottle. This was managed (and enjoyed) via licking fingers as shown in the video, but was a bit sticky. This syrup is unique and exclusive to the box so the value is unknown.

Next in the box was a dropper bottle of Lime and Bay Leaf Bitters. This blend of vodka, lime, star anise, gentian root, and two varieties of bay will help to stimulate and aid in digestion, or can be used to flavor cocktails. I enjoyed the sour lime flavor, grounded by the bay and other herbs and spices. This exact variety of bitters was exclusive to the box, but similar ones can be found at Kings Road Apothecary here (1 oz. retail value $15.00).

Kings Road Apothecary Subscription Box July 2015 lime and coconut

The other two items included a deluxe sample size of Summer Glow: Lime and Coconut Body Oil (1 oz. retail value $13.00). The oil is light and super-moisturizing, with gold micro shimmer for a summer glow. It contains coconut Co2, which was an ingredient that I had not heard of before. After putting my finely-tuned Googling skills to work, I learned that coconut CO2 is the product of extracting coconut oil from coconut pulp with carbon dioxide. The resulting coconut CO2 preserves the luscious coconut aroma, allowing for a natural coconut scent to be added to body care products. All I can say is that the body oil smells really yummy. It reminds me of key lime shortbread cookies, although Eva thought that it smelled like pumpkin and cardamom (she must be missing fall). In any case, I think that the oil is glowy, moisturizing, and deliciously scented; making it perfect for using after a relaxing day at the beach.

The final item was a deluxe sample size of Coconut and Vanilla Sugar Scrub (4 oz., value $12.50). Rebecca had mentioned on Facebook that during the experimental process in preparing for the box, she had initially added more essential oils to this sugar scrub. In making the batch for the boxes, she was so struck by the delicious scent of the sugar, coconut, and vanilla that she decided to stop there. I think that was an excellent choice because this smells just. so. good. I made everyone who I could find take a sniff. We had differing opinions as to whether it smelled like macaroons, cookie dough, frosting, etc. We agreed that it smelled like something that you’d want to eat with a spoon. I fully intend to squirrel this away until we move next month and I luxuriate in the master bathroom (and bathtub) that I have pined for. I’m not going to leave it until I am all pruney and smell exactly like this sugar scrub. As of this writing, this scrub is not available for purchase, but you can find similar products on the KRA site here.

Kings Road Apothecary July 2015

I always enjoy receiving my Kings Road Apothecary boxes. Compared to other boxes they may seem like a bit of a splurge because there is not a dramatic item value relative to the price paid as is typical of more mainstream beauty boxes. That said, they are so beautifully curated and crafted. I find the contents so inspiring for my own herbal creations, and I discover new products and ingredients to incorporate into the things that I make (going to get my hands onto some of that coconut CO2). I also appreciate receiving Rebecca’s email newsletter that talks about the theme of the month while she works on creating the recipes for the boxes. I feel like I learn so much about plants and their uses, and I get better acquainted with plants that are not native to my region (signup for the newsletter here; no purchase necessary). Additionally, I think that there is something special about discovering and receiving indie subscription boxes in the mix of crunchy-friendly subscription boxes that I receive. Not only are you supporting a small business, generally run by one person or family, but you are also discovering products and companies that will only be found there, not across other subscription box services. Something about that feels exclusive and precious.

At this moment, the July Kings Road Apothecary box is still available on the KRA site. The August box with a Cactus and Cool theme is currently available for preorder and is scheduled to ship for arrival around August 24th. The box will include four herbal items for home, health, or body. The four items in the box may be chosen from among the following list of brainstormed items (or may be some related spontaneous brilliant idea): Shimmering coconut + cactus facial serum, Nopal and hibiscus white tea, a summer cold infusion blend, Cactus and coconut after-sun potion, a calming summer heat elixir, Cactus fruit liqueur, Prickly pear + cucumber facial mist, Cactus + rose burn and wound powder (great for sunburn, or as an addition to your first aid kit), Cactus flower gut healing tea, Prickly pear + hibiscus flower face cream, or Rose + cactus flower elixir.

As a reminder the KRA boxes are made using wild crafted ingredients. In an effort to support plant sustainability in harvesting, only a limited number of boxes are available each month. Are you going to grab a July box before they are gone? Does Cactus and Cool sound like it will hit the spot for August?

If you would like to see my most recent comprehensive listing of “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe!

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Barganic Alert: Vegan Cuts Summer Beach Box and Summer Beauty Essentials Kit

Vegan Cuts Summer Beach Box

Vegan Cuts is one of the many crunchy-friendly subscription box services featured in the Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. They source and send quality, 100% cruelty-free cosmetic, skin care, and beauty products to their monthly subscribers. On occasion, Vegan Cuts curates limited edition themed boxes available for purchase individually.

Vegan Cuts is currently offering their Summer Beach Box filled with great summer essentials. Box price is $26.00 and ships free. The box features 10 items worth over $60, including:

Pacifica Sea Foam Face Wash – .7 fl oz
Captain Blankenship Mermaid Sea Salt Hair Spray – 1oz
Schmidt’s Deodorant in a mix of 4 scents – .5oz
Eco Lips Lip Balm in Superfruit or Lemon-Lime – .15oz
Wellinhand Bug-A-Boo – 1-2 ml vial
Cult Cosmetics Nail Polish in a mix of colors – .5 oz
DermOrganic Shampoo – 2 fl oz
DermOrganic Conditioner – 2 fl oz
Emani Lip Gloss – .24oz
So Gloss Nail Wraps – 24 individual nail wraps

See the link above for more details about the items included. Boxes will start shipping later this week and are limited, so don’t hesitate if you want one. This is a one-time box purchase and will not start a re-billing subscription with Vegan Cuts.

Vegan Cuts Summer Beauty Essentials Kit

If you are one who prefers surprises, Vegan Cuts is also offering a Summer Beauty Essentials Kit for $27.95 (ships free). This kit includes a mix of 8-13 sample and full sized items valued at over $75.00. Some examples of the types of products you may find inside include:

Nail Lacquer
Soap
Facial serum
Moisturizer
Skin care, like face cream and facial wash
Cosmetics, like mascara or eye shadow
Deodorant
Aromatherapy oil

The picture above is meant to be representative of the types of items that you may receive. The actual items included in each Summer Beauty Essentials Kit will vary.

So if you like guarantees or surprises, Vegan Cuts has something to meet your cruelty-free summer needs. Are you in for one or both?

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Happy Hedgehog Post Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-June 2015

Happy Hedgehog Post is an indie subscription service featuring products for children and families to enhance their home, crafts, and nature tables. With a distinct focus on the handmade, seasonal, and natural, this subscription may be a good option for families who are familiar with, and appreciate a Waldorf schooling and play approach. Each month will include materials and instructions for one or more craft projects, a Zine featuring season-specific stories, recipes, bonus craft, and more, and a special gift often appropriate for play or to beautify a nature table. In addition, each month, HHP donates 10% of the purchase price of every subscription envelope to support a different charity of their choosing. This month, funds went to Nepal for assistance after the earthquake. The June Happy Hedgehog Post envelope is sold out, but the July envelope is still available for purchase. You can read more about it here.

Envelopes cost $30 per month, (shipping included), less with multi-month subscriptions. The cost will be increasing to $31 per month starting with the July envelope. In addition, if you want to purchase a second envelope for a sibling, a Sibling Envelope can be added to your purchase for $18. Sibling Envelopes include a second dose of all supplies necessary to complete the month’s crafts. They do not include the monthly Zine and bonus gift.

Happy Hedgehog Post subscription box June 2015

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

Happy Hedgehog Post Subscription Box June 2015 bookmarks

The June envelope had an “flowers and animals of the forest” vibe to it. The first project included was a pair of 100% wool felt corner book marks; a hedgehog (love) and a fox (Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!). The envelope included the patterns, felt, sewing needle, and embroidery floss needed to complete the project. The instructional video also included the use of additional paper and a pen or pencil for tracing the pattern, scissors, fabric scissors, and straight pins that the recipient would need to provide. The project was appropriate for a beginning-to-intermediate crafter, and demonstrated some useful stitches in the context of making the project, such as French knots, blanket stitch, and other basic embroidery. I think that my girls will love using these, and are old enough (9 and 12) that they can probably make them with minimal assistance.

Happy Hedgehog Post June 2015 subscription box mobile

The second craft included was a sweet flower, butterfly, and bee mobile that used needle felting to make the bees, as well as wool felt to make the flowers and butterflies. Also included were the pre-drilled wood dowels and block to construct the mobile in addition to the necessary fishing line and eye screws for suspending all of the pieces. The instructions for this project were shown in two parts, one video illustrating the needle felting of the bees, and a second video showing the making of the butterflies and roses, and the overall construction of the mobile. The envelope included a felting needle, sewing needle, and the other raw materials (wool, thread, felt, etc.) for making the mobile and its components. The materials provided are enough to make four flowers, six butterflies, and approximately six bees for the mobile. The videos also instructed the crafter to use hot glue, wood glue, a foam pad for needle felting, straight pins, scissors, fabric scissors, and an iron (optional), all of which are not included. The project assumes a moderate level of crafting experience and supplies, and involves a level of fine motor coordination (and sharp objects) that might make the project better suited for adults and older children than for younger kids. Both Alina and Eva wanted to help with the needle felting and were able to do so with just a bit of help from me.

Alina needlefelting bees

Alina needlefelting bees

The mobile is really sweet and beautiful. I plan to make it for my new baby niece. I think that a crafter would be most successful with this project if she or he has some prior experience with needle felting as well as basic crafting abilities and the necessary additional supplies. The video suggests adding another element to the center of the mobile, which I think would make it look even lovelier; a wool or silk fairy or flower, a string of more elaborate felted butterflies, a felt or needlefelted bee hive, or other spring object would add character. In addition, the video did not provide instructions or safety suggestions for how, where, or where not to actually hang the mobile, so it would be up to the crafter to figure out those aspects of the project.

Happy Hedgehog Post subscription box June 2015 zine and puzzle

In addition to the two craft projects, the HHP envelope included a copy of their Zine which had seasonal poems, and a lovely short story about fairies and color meant to encourage child participation and movement entitled, The Old Woman in the White House. The Zine also had two recipes; Southern Caviar Dip and a coconut milk based Mango Ice Cream. Both recipes were free of gluten and dairy, and required basic kitchen equipment. The Zine closed with a bonus craft recipe for Erupting Ice Paint, which is going to be among the first craft projects that we make when we move into our new home next month.

The last item in the envelope was the bonus item. It was a small 4-piece unfinished wood puzzle from Motherly Designs in the shape of a butterfly. The unfinished wood leaves open a world of creative options for finishing. It can be colored with crayons or painted with water colors, wood burned, stained, polished, etc. I was initially concerned that the size of the puzzle pieces would make this unsafe for a young child to use, but the simplicity of the four pieces might make it a poor fit for an older child. After giving it some thought, I think that Asher (age 5) might enjoy using it. Figuring out where the pieces should go might be easy for him, but manipulating them into place could be a good fine motor activity. He might also really enjoy painting the puzzle and making it his own creation.

I am not always sure how I feel about boxes when I first open them because sometimes I cannot immediately envision how I will use the items, or the value that they will have to me. This envelope was a bit is difficult to initially assess because it is essentially materials, ideas, instruction, and inspiration. It is the promise of fun times, learning, and creating, not the finished products themselves. After working with the projects and going through the Zine with the kids, I am really pleased with this subscription. I was initially drawn to it because all of my craft materials have been in storage since the fall while we have been looking for, and waiting to move into our new home. I have missed working with my hands and crafting with the kids, and really liked the idea of ordering craft kits with the majority of the supplies that we would need. This month did not disappoint. The girls were both so excited to needlefelt the bees for the mobile and are looking forward to making the bookmarks in the days ahead. They asked about making the recipes this week, and we read through the poems together. I look forward to including Asher in the ice paint craft and reading him the movement story.

Projects coming along.

Projects coming along.

I would say that a second felting needle would have been a greatly appreciated addition. There were plenty of supplies to allow both girls to work on the needle felting project together, but with one needle they had to take turns, which led to some frustration. Felting needles are inexpensive, but not easy to come by. They are also prone to breaking, especially with less experienced cafters. Adding a spare needle to the kit would have boosted the value to me. Along the same lines, it might have been a nice addition for the Zine to include some resource suggestions for where to buy a foam felting mat or extra felting needles if needed, and some online resources for basic needle felting instructions if one was completely new to the craft. That said, I think that this subscription could be a good one for new crafters. It offers the majority of supplies and instruction needed to get started on a new skill. I also think that the subscription is wonderful for more experienced crafters and Waldorf, homeschooling, or other families drawn to natural crafts and activities. Even with the skills and know-how, so many of us get caught up in our day-to-day lives and forget to engage in handwork or movement activities, or celebrate the change of seasons. This subscription reminds us to bring these into our lives through small projects and rhythms. The projects can also serve as a springboard, and be enhanced and embellished by more experienced crafters.

It is almost impossible to place a dollar value on the box. All of the items were original creations, exclusive to this subscription. The materials were high quality, and primarily all-natural. To provide some reference, I was able to find this mobile kit (value $10.30) which is comparable to the dowel, cube, and eye hooks portion of the mobile. I also found this (completed) wool felt corner bookmark (value $12.00).

I am pleased with this subscription, and have really enjoyed working on the crafts with the kids. It has made me all the more excited to be reunited with my craft supplies next month when we move, and the girls are chomping at the bit to do more needle felting. I have been challenged in finding a craft-oriented subscription for children that uses natural materials, and this one really fits the bill. I also appreciate that the crafts and activities will take a while to complete and can be worked on by us across many days as we reflect upon the season, rather than being breezed through quickly and then forgotten. Our experience in Waldorf education, and the associated appreciation for handwork was a great fit for this subscription, but I think that it would be equally appreciated by any family who enjoys nature, crafting, and hands-on activities. The July envelope looks like it will have three crafts, including a wet felting project. Are you going to grab one?

You can find the Happy Hedgehog Post subscription as well as many other subscriptions for home, baby, beauty, lifestyle, food, and more in the revised and expanded Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. You can also check out the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel for more crunchy subscription box unboxing and reviews.

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Seed Saving: What Seed Can Be Saved, How, and Why?

heirloom and OP tomatoes

Why Bother with Seed Saving?

I have really loved to grow food for as long as I can remember. Flowers and medicinal plants have claimed a place in my gardening heart in more recent years, but food is where it all began. As a young child, I remember that my dad always planted a summer vegetable garden in addition to the grape vines that wound their way up the fences amidst the raspberries and blackberries, and the strawberries that claimed their spot at the foot of the apple and pear trees. He would proudly display a handful of radishes or carrots and proclaim with pride, “Look what G-d and I made!” My Papa (his dad) was a gardener too, growing food his whole life. In his retirement he even coordinated a community garden and organized the donation of their bounty to local food pantries.

I am happy to carry on this tradition of growing food for my family and to share with others. My favorite food of all to grow is a tomato. In particular, I love to grow heirloom and open pollinated tomatoes. They tend to represent a seemingly endless array of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavor profiles. I think that they are beautiful and delicious. They also appeal to my drive to be sustainable and to perpetuate biodiversity in our food because open pollinated and heirloom seeds allow for the grower to harvest seed from the choicest fruit and save it to grow the same variety of plant year after year.

I know that in the weeks ahead gardeners from all around will be selecting and hardening off their plants or getting them in the ground. It is a bit late to be staring your own plants from seed this year, but if you want to plan ahead with the option of saving seed and starting your own plants next season, be mindful when choosing this year’s plants or seed. Moreover, if you are already growing heirloom or open pollinated plants, take advantage of the opportunity to save seed from your favorites to grow again in the future.

I demonstrate how to ferment and save your own tomato seeds in the video below. For more information on types of seeds and which are appropriate for saving (and which are not), keep reading.

Plant and Seed Types

For those unfamiliar with the distinctions among variety types, I’ll break it down:

Hybrids

A hybrid plant is a variety that has been created to have a number of desired characteristics. In the case of a tomato for instance that could be an early ripening, low acid, cherry size, orange, and sweet variety. This hybridized tomato is the evolution of cross-breeding plants with some of the desired characteristics and selecting out the resulting “baby” plants that come closer to the intended end product.

The variety mixing and tweaking goes on until the desired parent plants can be identified and stabilized so that when cross-bred will create the ultimate “blended” tomato. This tomato is their first generation “ideal” offspring and is labeled the F1 hybrid. However, hybrid tomatoes have seed that is unstable. That is to say that if you save and grow seed from this F1 fruit, the seeds will revert back in different and unpredictable ways to earlier generations, perhaps yielding an early ripening large red tomato with watery flavor; a late ripening, sweet, red cherry tomato; and a low acid, early ripening, medium-sized, yellow tomato. Moreover, second generation hybridized seeds also tend to produce less vigorous and more sickly plants.

Open Pollinated

An open pollinated (OP) plant means that the plant is pollinated by natural means such as insects, birds, or wind carrying pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers, rather than being a manipulated cross like a hybrid. As it happens, tomatoes are self-fertile and generally will be fertilized and set fruit without interference from other tomato plant varieties, but it could happen on occasion. If the blossom was to be fertilized from the pollen of a different open-pollinated tomato variety, the fruit would produce seed that would grow into a new and different variety altogether (in essence, an accidental hybrid).

This fact made me wonder how an OP keeps from becoming a hybrid. Generally speaking, these tomato varieties have become stabilized over time by selecting out generation after generation of plant that grows stable from the seed. The commonly held belief is that after 4-5 generations of growing seed from a fruit and saving seed only from those plants of each generation that replicate the initial plant, the variety is now stable and will yield the same tomato from generation to generation assuming that it is not accidentally fertilized by a different variety.

Because these plants are technically open-pollinated, they can yield seed that is a cross between the initial variety and another open pollinated tomato plant should an errant breeze or helpful bee carry over pollen from another plant before the flowers have pollinated by their own fertile selves. In an effort to ensure seed that is true to the variety, a grower would want to either isolate the plant a prescribed distance from other tomato varieties, or (more practical for the home grower) bag the flower blossoms to keep the fruit and seed true to the variety.

Heirloom

An heirloom plant is by definition an open-pollinated variety. The distinction however is that an heirloom variety is one that that has existed and handed down through families for years (I have seen definitions ranging from 50-100 years as the minimum requirement, but suffice it to say it would be an old variety). These tomatoes have become stabilized by years of selecting out the plants that represent the variety and handing these seeds down time and again, as with OP seeds. So in short, all heirlooms varieties are open-pollinated, but not all open pollinated varieties have earned the distinction of becoming heirlooms. If they stand the test of time and familial preference, they may become the heirlooms of the future.

Cliff Notes Version

In summary, a hybrid is a tomato that has been intentionally bred from crossing other varieties. It is unstable across generations so only first generation (F1) seeds should be used. Saved seeds from hybrids will not grow true. An open pollinated (OP) tomato is stable assuming that it does not accidentally become cross pollinated by another variety. This can be avoided by distancing plants or bagging blossoms. An heirloom is an OP variety that has been handed down from generation to generation for a period of 50-100 years or more and is still being grown today. Seed from OP or heirloom varieties can be saved and should grow true to variety except in the rare case of accidental cross pollinating.

Saving Tomato Seeds in Two Simple Steps

So, now that you know that you can save seed from heirloom and OP tomato plants, you just need to know how to do it. The good news is that it is very easy. All that is required is the liberation of the seed from its protective gel sac and then thoroughly drying the seed before storing so that it doesn’t mildew.

tomato seeds in their protective gel sacs

tomato seeds in their protective gel sacs

The second part is easy (just lay out flat and allow to dry). The first part is pretty simple too provided that you have a jar and a few days to allow the seeds to ferment in the tomato’s juice. See the video above for the quick tutorial.

What are some of your favorite tomato varieties? Why do you enjoy growing and eating them?

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