Yes. We tried. This picture sums up about what we produced. Dirt. Well, that is not totally true. We did get excited 3 months in when green sprouts came up...only to find we were carefully tending to weeds.
But we are trying again! This time with seeds that came from fresh coffee berries.
The Dixie Cup
Round Two. That is right, we are now on to round two of pain-staking care, constant supervision, and unmitigated excitement as we wait patiently for little sprouts to develop. Yes, we are attempting to plant coffee seeds again. We will revisit and describe our adventure the first time around, dubbed appropriately as “The Coffee Cup”, in a later blog. Suffice to say, we only managed to sprout a couple of weeds after 3 months of delicate and dedicated parenting. The initial excitement of seeing any type of sprout evaporated into disdain as we realized we were duped by weeds. We let them burn in the summer sun known to Minnesota. Nothing survived.
However, we are hoping for a much greater harvest this time. You see, we have not received these seeds from a faceless organization that reeks of big business. Oh no, we have gone rouge and circumvented “The Man” and have obtained fresh coffee berries ourselves (when I say “we” I mean Jason in this instance…he can challenge “The Man”, I only want to reap the benefits).
Yes. We know. Some say this is ridiculous. But we say pshaw to you. We are and WILL begin the first coffee plantation in Minnesota. And yes! We are going to follow in the footsteps of The Coffee Cup. We have a bracket that you are welcome to fill out. If you win the bracket (and our harvest is plentiful), we will labor on sending you the winning plant.
Cherries to seeds
We got coffee cherries. Yes: fresh ones. How did we get them you ask? Well, we can leave story for a later time. But to give you some background, coffee cherries come from a coffee bush. It does take a while for a coffee plant to produce cherries, but you will find an aromatic white flower that will eventually produce cherries. Once the cherries become dark red you can pick them by hand and select what you would like to do: plant them and see the circle of life continue, or roast them and destroy life (horrible person you).
Since we do not have a roaster, we will simply support other businesses that destroy coffee fertility and choose to reproduce coffee plants ourselves. We prepared our coffee cherries by removing the fruity pulp from the seed. There are different methods you can use, but we simply squeezed the cherry until it split and we were able to remove the seed from the middle.
Drying out the seeds
Once we removed the pulp, we dropped the seeds into water and let them sit for a few days. This did two things. First, if at any time the seeds floated, we would remove the seed. That is a sign they are unable to grow. And secondly, it helped remove the gummy exterior to the seed that was still there from the de-pulping. We did have one seed float which was a disappointment. However, I was amazed we only had one bad seed!
After the seeds were sufficiently fermented, we took them out and rinsed them off. Then we transported them into a dry container and let them sit for about a week. The aim is to let the seed dry out and get ready for planting. We found in our research that you need to get the seed down to about 20% moisture. Yes, your guess is as good as mine as to how to measure moisture levels in a seed. One website said we could bite into one of the seeds and find out. And by find out, the outer shell should be dry and hard but the inside should be moist (okay, soft…I just could not resist to use the word ‘moist’). The other method, which we attempted to follow, was to weigh the seeds right after de-pulping and then periodically throughout the week. It should be 20% of the weight when you want to begin your drying process.
That sort of made sense, so we went for it.
It took us about a week to find that our seeds had dried. I think it was a little less, but since Jason and I live about 30 minutes away, we had to wait till Mondays to get to planting. Sigh. I am not paid to just do coffee yet…
Anyways, now that we were content with our water moisture by measuring the weight of the combined beans, we set out to plant. I was wary of where and how we were going to plant our new seeds. Last time we were so organized and calculated. On this specific Monday, we were arranging it on the spot. I remember I had to run to the loo (British for toilet) and as I was in thought Jason walked by outside the door proclaiming he had a “brilliant” idea. His idea: let’s individually plant the seeds in Dixie cups. Yes, I know. Brilliant.
So research goes both ways on this next step. You can punch a finger tip hole in some soil (or better yet, a vermiculate of some sort) and put a seed in flat side down. Others say you can place the seeds in a coffee sack and keep that moist. However, when Jason visited the Coffee Plantation down in Costa Rica, they placed the seeds face down on top of dirt and then covered it with banana leaves.
We have elected to do the seeds on top of the soil. And for a few reasons. First, we see the seed! You have no idea how demoralizing it is to water dirt for 3 months and see absolutely nothing! On a small level, seeing the seeds is a solace. We are watering more than just dirt. Secondly, we attempted to plant seeds in the dirt last time and that got us no-where.
How did we get banana leaves, you ask? Well, we are using the banana leaves of the Midwest. Yes, the corn husk. Conveniently, what we had on the menu that evening as well. While the husks have dried out, we are finding it still seems to be doing what the banana leaves are meant to: capture moisture and keep it humid.
To plant our seeds we simply filled the cups with potting soil and placed the seed flat side towards the dirt and delicately placed the husk over it. Now, we wait.
Some questions you may be wondering:
How wet should you keep the seeds? Moist. A suggestion would be to get a spray bottle and squirt a mist over the seeds daily or as needed to keep it moist.
How long is the waiting process? Oh boy. Two to six months. Two if you have great seeds and six if you want to wish fruitlessly on your seeds to grow. Normally you are looking at a three month germination period.
How do I know the seeds are germinating? Word has it something green starts to come out of the seed…I will show you pictures when I see it for myself too!