How to save tomato seeds
Andrea Bellamy |

Want to save tomato seeds for next year? Tomatoes are a great choice for beginning seed savers. Here’s how you can make sure you’ll never go another summer without a taste of your favourite variety.

As tomato season winds down (booo!), it’s time to think about saving the seeds of your favourites. Tomato plants that produced early, resisted disease, and had prolific and flavourful fruit are good candidates for seed saving.

You’ll also want to make sure that the plant is an open-pollinated variety, that is, one that is pollinated by wind or insects rather than deliberately cross-bred by a breeder. The latter type, known as hybrids, are marked F1 (“First Filial Hybrid”) on the seed packet (or sometimes on the label). Hybrids do not reproduce accurately from seed, so saving and growing their seeds is a bit of a crap-shoot. Heirloom varieties are always open-pollinated (OP), which is why they’ve been saved and passed down through the generations like granny’s silver.

After you’ve chosen your tomato, it’s time to save those seeds.

Step one: Slice the tomato width-wise (rather than through the stem) to expose the seeds.

Step two: Scoop out the seeds and surrounding gel using your finger or your favourite piece of cutlery. Or simply squeeze the contents of the tomato into a shallow bowl. Remove any large bits of tomato debris.

Now, this is where things get weird. Each tomato seed is protected by a jelly-like sack that prevents germination inside a ripe tomato. Only after a process of fermentation (which, in nature, would occur as ripe fruits dropped to the ground and rotted) is the gelatinous membrane destroyed, leaving it open for business. Of course, that means you have to ferment your seeds to make them viable, too. And that means you’re going to purposely let a bowl of tomato junk rot. It’s going to stink, so put it somewhere it’s not going to ruin your appetite.

Step three: After a couple days, the surface of your bowl will be covered with mold. Check it frequently; you don’t want to overferment or the seeds may begin to germinate.

Once the surface is entirely covered with gray or white fuzz, add water and mix well. Let it settle, then skim the mold and bad seeds off the top. Viable seeds will sink to the bottom.

Step four: Set your seeds to dry on a plate or tray in a well-ventilated area. Once they’re dry, why not make yourself a pretty little seed packet to store them in?

October 7th, 2011 | COMMENTS (1)

Lawns to Loaves wheat harvest

See that? That’s me, standing in my little urban wheat field just three and a half months after it was planted. Running my hands along the top of the spiny heads of golden wheat as I walked the rows. Living the dream, folks.

The whole process – of turning and prepping the soil, planting, weeding, and now, finally, harvesting – has been an incredible experience. This is perhaps overly simplistic, but I now have a much deeper appreciation for the work that goes into producing the grain we consume. DIG DEEPER…

October 2nd, 2011 | COMMENTS (6)

How to grow tomatoes and make tomato gazpacho
Andrea Bellamy |

Every month, Heavy Petal collaborates with Willowtree — a website for those with food sensitivities who want to find their culinary bliss — to bring you a celebration of an in-season edible. I’ll tell you how to grow it; they’ll tell you how to eat it. Yay!

If your garden is like mine, it’s overflowing with tomatoes. It’s about this time of year I start looking for new tomato recipes. Thanks to the Willowtree gals, I’ve got a keeper. DIG DEEPER…

September 18th, 2011 | COMMENTS (0)

I’m on Apartment Therapy Re-Nest!
Andrea Bellamy |

Hey – check it out! My many gardens (seven and counting!) are featured on Apartment Therapy Re-Nest. Head on over to read the interview and see photos of my garden spaces.

August 24th, 2011 | COMMENTS (7)

Birrell garden at the Garden Blogger’s Spring Fling

In late July, I was lucky enough to meet up with 70 wonderful and somewhat crazed garden bloggers at the fourth annual Garden Blogger’s Fling, held this year in Seattle. Hosted by Lorene Edwards Forkner of Planted at Home, Marty Wingate of In the Garden with Marty Wingate, Outdoor Living Expert Debra Prinzing, and Mary Ann Newcomer of Gardens of the Wild Wild West, the Garden Blogger’s Fling was a four-day garden-touring, people-meeting, drink-swilling extravaganza. Good times.

We saw so many fantastic gardens during the Fling, but one my favourites was actually the very first. Belonging to Suzette Birrell and her husband Jim, this North Seattle garden stood out for me for a few reasons: it was personal (and infused with personality!). It was full of charming vignettes and subtle garden art without veering into kitsch or having the details overpower the garden as a whole. And it had the most fabulous vegetable garden. DIG DEEPER…

August 20th, 2011 | COMMENTS (3)

How to grow potatoes and garlic and make Roasted Garlic and Potato Pizza
Andrea Bellamy |

Every month, Heavy Petal collaborates with Willowtree — a website for those with food sensitivities who want to find their culinary bliss — to bring you a celebration of an in-season edible. I’ll tell you how to grow it; they’ll tell you how to eat it. Yay!

Until recently, I was a pizza purist, shunning over-the-top toppings in favour of a simple margherita or capricciosa. Then someone convinced me to try a slice of potato pizza, and I was hooked. And really, what’s not to like? Pizza and potatoes are perfect comfort foods, and together, they’re simply fabulous.

The Willowtree gals put their spin on potato pizza with this recipe (eggless, gluten-free crust optional) featuring two of summer’s garden stars: garlic, and of course, potato.

Roasted Garlic and Potato Pizza

Makes: one 10″ pizza

Cook Time: 1.5 hours for the pizza (includes dough rising time)


1 pizza crust (gluten-free folks, make Willowtree’s Eggless, Gluten Free Pizza Crust)

1 medium garlic bulb

1/3 large red onion, sliced and caramelized

1 medium Yukon gold potato, sliced thin

3-4 tbsp olive oil

coarse sea salt & pepper

fresh basil leaves, stems removed and roughly chopped DIG DEEPER…

July 31st, 2011 | COMMENTS (1)

Orange nasturtiums and purple basil
Andrea Bellamy |

If there’s an upside to accidentally ripping out an entire climbing nasturtium, it’s that you’ll have a beautiful salad that night. A peppery, colourful, beautiful salad.

July 29th, 2011 | COMMENTS (3)

My edible balcony garden
Andrea Bellamy |

Here’s a peak at my third-floor veggie patch. It’s pretty utilitarian. There’s no room for a barbecue or even a chair. Heck, squeezing between the planters can be a challenge. But we’ve got other spaces for those fripperies. This balcony is dedicated to production. And boy, it’s productive. Everything is grown in containers, and this year, “everything” includes peas, beans, tomatoes, carrots, dill, basil, thyme, cucumbers, zucchini, poppies, nasturtiums, and a fig tree. All in a 4’x10′ space. I like it.

July 20th, 2011 | COMMENTS (7)

Now harvesting: mid-July
Andrea Bellamy |

Would you look at that craziness? Someone ought to get their plot under control.

Oh wait, that’s my whacked-out bed. The arugula is flowering and flopping, the radishes have flower stalks as thick as woody perennials, and the lettuce is so crowded it’s getting claustrophobic.

Despite the seeming neglect, I’ve actually been harvesting from this, my Salad Garden, regularly. I eat the arugula flowers and toss the elbow-room-only lettuces into salads almost every night. I have no excuse for why I’m letting those radishes grow into small trees, however. Oh wait, here’s one: I’m waiting for them to produce seed pods. Then I’ll eat those, too.

I’m also harvesting ‘Sugar Ann’ peas which I’ve let grow plump (I actually enjoy eating the shelled, raw peas more than the baby pods, I’ve discovered); ‘Sungold’ tomatoes, broccoli, and herbs.

What are you harvesting now?

July 19th, 2011 | COMMENTS (5)

First strawberry!
Andrea Bellamy |

It feels like I’m a little late to the party, what with this being mid-July and all, but I’m just harvesting my first strawberries now.

Guess what? It was worth the wait.

July 18th, 2011 | COMMENTS (4)

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