Saving Parsnip Seed

This blog post has been over 18 months in the making!

Parsnips are a biannual plant so to they only flower and set seed in their second year of growing. 

Last year I grew a good batch of parsnips which we ate all winter, but I saved the best ones to grow on for seed. In march I sorted through them and planted them in a new bed.
Parsnips selected. Not the most perfect but they're all a good size.

Laid out ready to plant
 They grew all summer, reaching a height of over 6ft with no care from me whats so ever! 
The green flowers at the back are the parsnip ones.

Flowers as tall as me, if not more (6ft)

I once the flowers had set and the seeds formed the plants started to dry off. I picked a sunny day and harvested all the flower heads, with stalks still attached, and hung them up in the shed to dry out fully.
Parsnip seed heads harvested and hung in the shed to dry out fully
Then a month later it was a a lovely sunny afternoon so I decided it was time to collect the seed from them.
To get the seed was simple, I laid a dust sheet on the ground (an old bed sheet actually) and then we "threshed" them in batches. To thresh them we just used a 5ft length of bamboo cane and hit them, periodically we'd stop, move the seed heads, pick out all the big bits then scoop the seeds into a jar before starting again. The girls loved this job and thought it was great to collect the seed up as well. 

The girls threshing the seed heads. 

The boy thought this was great fun as well! 

A bit of the seed fresh off the dried plants.

A big batch of seed saved up and a chunky arm trying to steal them! 
Growing these parsnips for seed has been great fun and I certainly learnt a lot doing it.  The main thing I learnt is how much space it takes to grow something for seed. These plants took up a huge amount of space, not something that you could do in an average UK garden that's for sure! 

I think growing things for seed would be best done in groups of like minded people, each growing a different variety of carrot for example. To try to do it all yourself each year (or every other depending on how long the seed lasts) would be a massive undertaking, not just with the growing but the planning as well (cross pollination of certain plants), something that needs careful consideration from anyone planning for full self sufficiency.

I now have a massive amount of parsnip seed that I'm going to use myself, give away to friends, take to the seed swap next year and give away on this blog. I have five huge jars full of seed, far more than I could ever use. 

Who else has grown biannual plants for seed?

Did you have much success?