While purchasing seeds won’t necessarily set you back a whole lot of money, as a homesteader, you are likely interested in frugality to some degree. When seed quality and frugality can intersect, all the better! This year is a great time to learn how to harvest and store your very own romaine lettuce seeds.
Rather than yanking the bolted lettuce plants out of the ground and throwing them away, allow your lettuce plants to remain in the ground. Each plant will grow to 4-5 feet high and bloom with small yellow flowers, which will soon after turn to what look like miniature dandelions.
The flower buds are sticky to the touch be cause of the milky sap that is contained inside of the plants. When the buds are like this, you will need to wait a while until they dry out.
This won’t happen all at the same time, so be prepared to harvest from time to time to get all of your lovely romaine lettuce seeds! (This works for any leaf lettuce, by the way!)
How to Harvest Romaine Lettuce Seeds
Once the the flowers have dried out and resemble ‘mini-dandelions’, it’s time to harvest the seeds. Usually the whole flower head will be pretty dry and the act of rolling it between your thumb and forefinger will release many seeds from the head. Make sure to cup your hand below the seed head so you don’t lose any.
Remember, not every ‘mini-dandelion’ will have developed seeds at the same time. If the flower head feels wet to the touch (when rolling it between your fingers) at all, the seeds are probably not yet developed and ready to be harvested. Plan to come back in a few days to a week to check readiness for harvest. As you practice, you will be able to eaily tell when it’s the right time to harvest seeds from each head.
Another way to harvest them is to shake the plant over a paper bag to catch the seeds. This method is supposed to cut back to little or no winnowing. However, if you need to do a little winnowing, a metal strainer with a little bit larger mesh can work to separate the chaff from the seeds.
If you can’t afford the space to leave your plants in the ground, pull up the plants and set them in a well-ventilated area to finish drying. Once they are completely dry, you can continue your seed collecting.
Once you have finished your harvesting, store the seeds in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. Seed viability is about 5 years, so make sure you label your container with what type of seeds and the year you harvested the seed.