It is fall again and the basil has gone to seed. Though I am down for my surgery recovery, I can sit in one spot and separate basil seeds from the chaff. I am spending time today saving basil seeds and cilantro seeds. Easy to do…I have a previous article on this here. One thing to be aware of that I didn’t mention in the seed saving article is that both basil and cilantro will cross pollinate with other basils and cilantros.
Cross pollination is the spreading of pollen from one type of plant (say a Genovese basil) to another type of plant of the same family (like a Thai basil.) The seeds saved from plants that have been cross pollinated will not produce new plants that are true to type. So, if you have a happy little pot that contains both Thai bail and Genovese basil and you let them cross pollinate, they will both taste normal the year they are growing but any seeds you save from the Genovese basil to plant next year may grow and have characteristics of the Thai basil that was growing next to it last year. And visa versa. If you want to save seeds and keep the seeds true you will need to either only plant one variety (I have heard that you need to keep different varieties separated by 2 miles) or net your plants to keep the bees from spreading the love. I have purchased little organza craft bags like these for this purpose, though I have yet to use them – they are still in storage somewhere since the move.
In the past I have only grown sweet basil and haven’t had to concern myself with cross pollination. That holds true this year for the cilantro. I only grew one type of cilantro so I am saving seeds without any concern that my cilantro will not be exactly what I expect it to be next year. That being said…I am expecting some exciting possibilities from my basil next year. This past summer, I put Genovese, Pistou, Purple Petra, and Thai basil all together in the same area. So I could have some pretty weird combinations from the seeds that I save this year. The Genovese was a sweet basil with broad leaves. The Pistou was a bushy, tiny leafed basil. The Purple Petra was, obviously, purple – but very good. The Thai basil was very anise flavored (like licorice) and not my favorite, though the blooms were gorgeous with tall, purple spikes.
So next year’s planting I will use some older seed packets of known varieties, but I am planning a surprise basil pot to see what I get. I am only saving the Genovese and Pistou seeds, but I won’t know until next year what genetic combinations are stored in those tiny little seeds. It’s fascinating really. I can’t wait! Happy seed saving!
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