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Friday, July 10, 2009

Panning for kale

Some may remember that a few days ago, risa was hanging fava bean vines between the maples out back, and that there was a large dried-out shrub hanging upside down on one of the trees, which she mentioned was kale.

Yes; when you let kale go to seed it becomes practically a small tree, covered with at first a galaxy of small yellow flowers, then a thousand or more Lilliputian "bean" pods. A couple of days later, Beloved mentioned that the kale seemed "done;" that is, some of the pods were sproinging open and dumping out their tiny seeds. That sounded about right to me, so I got out an old sheet and spread it on the ground, then gingerly took down the dry, feather-light kale bush and laid it in the center of the sheet. From the barn, I brought out a square-point shovel, and whaled the kale but good for about three minutes. All the stems broke, and the bush flattened out encouragingly, so I found Beloved, who was weeding around front, and we lifted the sheet between us and poured its contents into a large steel bowl.

I brought the bowl into the house, gathered one handful of pods after another, and "panned" for kale by swirling the pods, crunching them up from time to time with my free hand, in a colander. As seeds fell out of the resulting detritus, and rolled round and round the bottom of the colander, they found the holes and fell into a second steel bowl, leaving behind most of the chaff.

I'm sure I must have thrown quite a lot of seeds onto the compost heap along with the chaff, but that's the way of threshing and winnowing; the object is to get what one needs, not to chase down every minuscule seed.

As it was, we got more than a cup of seed from this one plant! That's scary to contemplate, because a packet with just a very tiny few of them can cost $1.25 to $2.50. There is more kale, in this embryonic state, in this bowl than we could could ever eat in a lifetime ...

I'm leaving the bowl on the counter for a few days, in case there's still too much moisture in the seeds for packing; then they will go into old 35mm film cans. I'm thinking of keeping just enough for us, in a small envelope, and giving the film cans to our local food bank gardens, who gave us some surplus starts this year. After all, turn about is fair play!


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