New Crop 2015: Flax

Every year we try at least one new crop, since we are just starting out. This year we decided to try our hand at flax, for seed. You can also grow flax for its fiber, but this requires a balancing act between when you can harvest the stalks for fiber and still have the most seed pods mature. I ordered my flax seed through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I got about 100 seeds. The variety I ordered was an annual, meaning it will only come up this year.

Flax is a direct sow crop that we planted in after the last frost. I raked back the wood chips in the area, used my iron rake to loosen up the ground, and then broadcast the seed(which means to scatter the seed, instead of placing it in a row). I then lightly raked the wood chips back over and voila! They sprouted within two to three weeks.
2015-05-20 15.04.152015-06-13 09.10.582015-06-23 07.57.21The flax is beautiful when it starts to grow; above are pictures of it throughout this summer. The particular kind I purchased bloomed purple/blue flowers on the stalks. Eventually the blooms slow, and hard seed pods take their place. They will dry out and you can then pull them off and place them into a container, until you have time to process them.
2015-07-28 09.21.09<<The brown circular things are the seed pods.

After you collect your seed pods you have to process them by threshing. There are a few ways to do this. The first way, very time consuming, is to individually break them open and remove the seed (there is about 4-6 seeds per pod and most stalks will have quite a few pods). A second way, is to place them in a bag or pillow case, and then roll it with a rolling pin or some people recommend even driving over it (I think that is a little extreme). Once the seed is separated from the pod, you will have to winnow the chaff. This is either done on a breezy day, where you pour the seed and pods back and forth between two buckets until you have just seed left. Winnowing helps the chaff to float away and the heavy seed to drop into the bucket. The only other way to do this would be to use a small fan and proceed the same way.
2015-08-22 21.13.08<<Seed and seed pod

Once the seed is separated, you can either store it in a cool, dry place in a brown paper bag for seed for next year; you can eat the flax seed directly; or you can grind the flax seed and use as a powder.

Hope that this will help you decide if you would want to grow flax in your own garden!

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