Saving Seeds of Leaf beets, Spinach and Lettuce
Spinach beet and Swiss chard are both sown in summer for harvesting in winter. They should be thinned to stand 30 cm (1’) apart in the rows and allowed to run to seed. The plants are ready to cut for drying when the lower seeds begin to turn brown. Summer, which, like spinach beet and Swiss chard, also belongs to the family Chenopodiaceae, runs to seed very freely, and this is its main problem. So pull up the plants as soon as they start to flower, and save your seed from the last few plants to bolt. Winter spinach seed should be saved from the plants that have come through the winter best.
The principle of selecting the slowest plant to bolt applies also to lettuces. Sow the seed as early as you can in the open, remove every alternate plant for eating and pull out the first to start growing flower stems, leaving perhaps a dozen late starters. Wait until they produce yellow daisy-like flowers and watch these carefully as they ripen, for they should be picked when the groundsellike fluffy seeds are almost ready to blow away. This is why you need at least a dozen plants, for a sudden gale may blow up just when they are ready to scatter the harvest, and some may escape. Cut off the stems and lay them in paper-lined trays to dry, before rolling with a rolling pin or milk bottle, sifting out the rubbish and storing the light brown seed in manilla packets.