Saving Woad Seeds

Last summer I grew three beds of woad. This spring they all came up and bolted very happily.

Here is a close-up of a woad plant in bloom on May 4, 2013. You can see the family resemblance to broccoli, mustard, and other brassicas.

woad May 4 2013

Here are two beds at peak bloom. Very fragrant! Even a little stinky!

woad May 10 2013

Once the seeds started to set, I pulled up two beds. It was a shame to rip up such lusty plants, but a person only needs so many woad seeds and woad plants are prolific. Here’s the enormous pile of uprooted plants on June 1st:

woad pile June 1

Some of the leaves of the plants I pulled up were an intriguing purple color, but alas this year was not the year for experimentation with second-year woad plants as a dye source.

woad purple June 1

Here’s what the seeds look like when they are green:

woad May 27 seeds

And here’s the whole bed:

woad May 27 2013

Note how floppy the plants get. Even though the stalks are very sturdy, the plants get top-heavy. So, I ran some twine and flagging tape around the bed to prevent them from falling over all the way.

This photo is from June 8 when the seeds are beginning to mature. The seeds on the stalk on the left are turning a darker color.

woad June 8 2013

Here’s a mature stalk that I harvested on June 21, a glorious summer solstice day.

June 21 2013

I cut about a quarter of the stalks that day, and intended to come back during the week for the rest. However, we had a lot of heavy rain during the week, and I didn’t get back until the 29th for the rest. Here’s a lovely stalk on June 29:

dark woad seeds June 29

Due to all the rain, many of the stalks were beginning to mold, and a ton of seeds had fallen to the ground. This was a revelation to me. In the past, I must have been much more on top of the harvesting, and I found it necessary to manually strip the seeds from the stems. I could never understand how woad could be such an invasive plant out West when the seeds clung so firmly to their stalks. But now I know that if you leave them long enough, they just fall off on their own. Woad-a-palooza:

fallen woad seed June 29

Here are the stalks with seeds spread out to dry in front of our apartment yesterday, June 29, 2013:

woad seeds drying June 29