harvesting nigella and other seeds

It seems such a short time since our view from the kitchen table included the bright yellow heads of Ruby’s sunflowers, cheery and upright. Glancing at their now sorry state and feeling tardy, I also noticed the nigella seed pods.

Ruby liked the idea of gathering seeds, especially as it involved little envelopes, jars, and her sunflowers, so we headed out in our wellies. As easily distracted as my 5 year old daughter, I couldn’t resist picking a few runner beans for tea as we passed them. Some of the larger ones looked too tough, so I decided they’d provide seed for next year’s display of ‘painted lady’ beans. I love alium seed heads purely for decoration, placed in jars in the house. And remembering Sarah at the garden deli’s (www.thegardendeli.wordpress.com) biscotti recipe, we harvested fennel seeds too.

After lots of poking about with sunflowers (actually by Ruby this time, not me) and trips to the compost heap, we settled back into the warmth of the kitchen. Ruby laid out old newspaper and happily gathered the brown envelopes, putting a few to one side of course for her secret stash. I found some empty jars and pens and we started to sort out our hoard.

The painted lady beans, when podded, turned out to be huge and beautifully mottled pink; we wondered if they were perhaps magic beans and could be exchanged for a cow on the way to the market.One of the sunflower heads was destined to provide food for the birds, hanging from the magnolia tree outside our kitchen window along with a large fir cone that we’d filled some time ago with bird seed. It may look as if we’re setting up a joke for some unsuspecting townie visitor by creating a weird fruiting tree, but we’re hoping the birds will enjoy their treats.

Ruby decided she’s going to plant 100s of sunflowers next year by saving seeds. Looking at the packets crammed with nigella seeds, it seems their pretty blue ‘love in a mist’ flowers are going to be even more prolific. Loving crushing the crinkly dry seed pods and seeing the jet black tiny seeds spill out, Ruby was happy. I was thinking of culinary uses, dreaming of flatbreads sprinkled with nigella seeds, similar in flavour to cumin. A taste of the Middle East from our Cotswolds woodburner.

When I looked at our collection of sunflower heads for the birds, jars of seed for the kitchen, and packets of seed to plant next year, it felt very satisfying. I was reminded somehow of the gardener’s adage, “One for the rock, one for the crow, one to die, and one ro grow.” Then I looked around and saw seeds, husks and pods scattered everywhere. Maybe it would’ve been a good job for the outside table. I realised that as usual my enthusiasm had skipped ahead of any thought for planning. Definitely don’t remember twenty for under the table, a hundred for the rug, fifty for the kitchen floor being part of the adage.