Sunday, July 26, 2015

Like a mustard harvest

This would be "the chaff"
While many have heard of the mustard seed, very few have actually seen one, much less harvested one.  So in the interest of providing a little background to Jesus' usually-misunderstood parable*, here's a little bit about mustard, and especially how to harvest it.

Mustard is a rather small seed that grows into a grass-like self-seeding annual shrub.  It's incredibly easy to grow, and because it's so tall and bushy, I like to use it around my tomatoes to shield them from insects that are looking for, well, tomatoes.**  Some people chop the young leaves into salads while others save the seeds to make Dijon mustard.  I'm going with the latter, as I had enough beet greens this year that I never even tried mustard leaves.

Over the course of its 4-month life, mustard can grow 6 or 7 feet high. But it won't grow straight up: rather will tend to fall over toward the end of its growth, when it shoots out what look like a million little pods that weigh it down.  Each pod contains a half-dozen seeds, maybe a few more.  Yeah, you're gonna need a lot of them.

There are a couple ways to harvest.  You can wait until the entire plant turns brown and yank it all.  That's probably the most efficient way, and you'll drop enough seed that you're guaranteed to not have to plant in that spot next year. I prefer to snip the dried stalks right down to the main stem with a pair of scissors while leaving the maturing ones in place.

Once you get a bowl full of those, twist and smash and roll and crush the plants with your hands.  If the pods are dry, you'll soon hear the seeds rolling around the bowl.  Twist it all again and throw anything that smells like hay onto the compost pile.

"the smallest of all garden seeds..."
That will leave you with something like this. Yeah, they're small***, and it seems like a lot of work for a few seeds.  But takes only a few minutes to get a 1/2 cup or so of seeds. In good ground, they really do return an hundredfold.

Now, get a second bowl, and in a light wind or in front of a fan pour the seeds a few times from one bowl to the other. This will blow away the remaining chaff, leaving you only the seeds.  If your pods were dry enough to crush easily, your seeds are dry enough to store immediately.  I just put them in a recycled vitamin bottle and mark them with the year.

This will not only be my seed for next year, but my base for this totally bitchin' Dijon recipe I'll be trying this winter.  But next year I may move the mustard away from the tomatoes, as once they fall over they make it impossible to mow anywhere close to the raised beds.  OTOH my tomatoes look great so far.  We'll have to see how they prosper now that the mustard is no longer hiding them from the bad bugs.

* If you need to get straightened out, El Borak the bible expositor can help.
** I'm not sure if it works, but it makes it hard for me to find tomatoes, so it must be hard for bugs, right?
*** Jesus said as much.


  1. I honestly wish I had what it took to do more planting and all. At least there is vicarious. May the experiences for the tales be as fruitful as the gardens and larder from even that. I never was able to make a right djon mustard. Might have to see about local seed and give it a whirl with the recipe.

  2. There's one little item I forgot, though it's less important in regards to mustard seeds than larger seeds like coriander and dill: once you pour them into a bowl for the first time, watch them for a minute to see if anything moves.

    There are a lot of things in nature that look like seeds but aren't. I'm betting they don't taste like seeds, either.

  3. Yes, well... I don't beat my seed into a bowl myself, so don't need to sort so much?

    -biting lip -oh so biting lip, via fingers mind... *cough* stopping there

  4. I don't beat my seed into a bowl myself,,

    Hey!!! easy....

  5. OT: VD made the assertion that Nurture can only be negative and never positive.
    I assume he is talking the Material vs Metaphysical, but maybe not...
    Elbo and ilk thoughts?
    That's anything from very interesting to it defensible, BH. ( I would guess that you OBVIOUSLY do not quite agree)

  6. If I'm reading you right you're talking about VD's culture/genetics discussion? The argument that nature over nurture and genetics determines culture is obviously oversimplified. Does nature count? Of course. Does nurture? Demonstrably. Tabula rasa is dead, and good riddance. That does not mean that environment has no impact on culture and even IQ. The average Irish IQ has risen a full standard deviation since the 1970s. Genetics or environment?

    I think it's a little silly to see Ilk saying things like "genetics determines culture." Really? What is the genetic difference between German atheists and German Mennonites? Almost none. The cultural difference? It's tremendous.

    While there are areas of culture can arise from genetics, there are obviously other areas like geography, religion, and even hyperinflation (really, anything that truly threatens collective survival) that make deep and long-lasting impacts on culture.

    Aside form the limitations of nature (what they are had-pressed to say with specificity), what impacts culture most is collective rewards and punishments. For example, white Americans have not gone from a 5% out-of-wedlock country to a generation of bastards in 50 years because of genetics, but because there are no longer any social penalties for out-of-wedlock birth. 'Long-term thinking' was not bred out of the Millennials, it's simply a lot of fun to screw and if you have a baby, who cares? When the penalties return, whether as a result of a survival necessity or religious change, the culture - represented by the free/expected actions of those in it - will change as well.

  7. A second area that is oversimplified is his argument about how immigration changes the culture. Obviously, if you import 300 million Chinese into Idaho, it becomes China. Send 109 million Mexicans to California and it becomes Mexico. It does not mean that without immigration, we'd still be respecting the rights of Englishmen or some such.

    For proof, let's check our control group, in which there was negligible immigration for 880 years before 1945: nope the English don't talk about, or respect, the rights of Englishmen.

    Our Founders 'froze' a period in British law and culture in which natural rights were paramount. That lasted in the South until 1865 m/l. But even in the Britain of 1776, that line of thinking was considered passe'.

    So with Immigration, the culture changes. Without immigration, the culture changes. The question is not, is the culture going to change? Yes, it is. Drastically. Radically.

    If you happen to like the 18th century, as I do very much, it's going to change for the worse. But it will be driven more by technology, mobility, longevity, child mortality, the spread of wealth, and the fads of intellectualism/science than by anything else.