Winnowing Money Plant Seeds
I picked a bag full of money plant seed pods yesterday. I’ve been enjoying the flowers and leaves of this backyard weed since reading Rebecca Lerner’s post about it earlier this spring, and am hoping that the seeds will make an interesting and delicious mustard-like condiment. The pods I picked were varying shades of chartreuse to tan, and hadn’t yet split open; since I am impatient I put some of them in the dehydrator overnight, which took care of that. (The rest are currently spread out on a variety of juryrigged surfaces.)
Thinking I was clever, I put the dried, split pods in a paper bag, shook them up, and then smashed them up a bit. Then I went outside to try to winnow the seeds from the pods.
If Sisyphus and Maxwell’s Daemon had a love child, that child’s chore would be to winnow money plant seeds from their dried and smashed-up pods. I tried every technique I could think of – or rather, since it was raining, I tried every technique I could think of that would work underneath the covered part of my back deck – but either the seeds would bounce into the chaff bowl, or the chaff would fall into the seed bowl, or both. Usually both.
Since money plant is an aggressive weed I didn’t want to put too many seeds into my compost. I was reduced to picking them out by hand. Maybe winnowing is always this inefficient and I just have unrealistic expectations, maybe I was doing it wrong, or maybe the flattened money plant seeds are just unusually good at hiding behind their chaffy friends. Whatever, lesson learned: On the next batch I will refrain from shaking and especially from smashing the pods, and just split them one by one over a bowl.
The seeds by themselves have a mustardy-horseradishy pungency when fresh; after drying they taste bitter. If I hadn’t read about how making conventional mustard involves soaking the seeds in cold water in order to activate the enzymes that turn a bitter flavor into a pungent one, I’d be discouraged – but I refuse to be discouraged. I sank about two too many hours into these seeds to believe that the resulting condiment will be anything but amazingly delicious. Besides, I just ate some yellow mustard seeds for comparison (the sacrifices we make for knowledge!), and they are much more pungent but the bitter flavor is very similar.
The winnowing was enough work for one day. I’ll save the mustard-making for later.