Seed Saving for the Chenopodiaceae Family

     

Genus

Species

 

Common Name

Atriplex

hortensis

orach

Beta

vulgaris

silverbeet, chard, beetroot, mangel beet, sugarbeet

Chenopodium

album

lambs quarters

Chenopodium

bonus-henricus

Good King Henery

Chenopodium

quinoa

quinoa

Spinacia

oleracea

spinach

Pollination: Members of the Chenopodaceae family are wind pollinated

Isolation Distances: The pollen is light and can travel for up to 10 km. As with the brassicas, I have found you can grow them far closer if you watch your valleys, trees, shelter and where you plant things.

Minimum Numbers: Plant a minimum of 300 beetroot,, rogueing out the 100 least true to type to keep the line strong for the long haul.
We’ve been sent many variations on the chard/silverbeet theme, so it’s clear that this plant has been one of the real staples for our ancestors in this land. It’s also clear to me that not all species of this family need to have such large grow outs. I think beetroot, mangle beet, sugar beet, spinach and quinoa do need large grow outs, but silverbeet, orach and chard cultivars seem to have worked for over 150 years in this land with far less numbers. I would suggest a minimum of 6 for these cultivars.

When To Plant: Many members of this family, especially the vulgaris species, will not go to seed unless they have been grown through a Winter. It works best to plant the seed in late Summer, get them to full size before Winter, and they will seed strongly the following Spring/Summer. Other species in this family will go to seed well if planted in Spring.

Rogueing: With beetroot, sugar beet, mangle beet, quinoa and spinach take out the least true to type and eat. With silverbeet, chard and orach only save seed from strong true to type plants.

Support/Protection: All members of this family will grow tall and need support in a home garden situation to prevent losing seed . We use stakes for tall plants like silver beet, and grids for lower plants like spinach. birds love the mature seed so you’ll have to watch carefully and cover if necessary.

Harvest: Chenopod seeds come from their stems very easily so it’s critical to harvest before this stage or very carefully which is often difficult.

Threshing: Once again we dry the seed heads well in the greenhouse until crunchy, then place them on a cloth on the dry hard ground or in our barrels, and jump on them. After removing all the big stems we then winnow

Selection: You’ll notice that seeds in these species can vary on each plant in size enormously. Some of the large seeds are an aggregate of many seeds held quite strongly together, others are single seeds. They should all germinate well.

Seed Life Expectancy: All beet seeds will retain 50% germination under cool, dry, dark conditions for 6 years, spinach 50% germination for 5 years.