Update: The ambrette seed giveaway is closed. Over 35 packets will be mailed out this week, and I wish everyone to have a fruitful harvest!
I have quite an important update to my ambrette seed growing and harvesting project of 2014-2015. I have 17 ounces of ambrette seeds from the harvest with no scent. I have one ounce with a lovely, strong scent. How did this happen? I’m sharing my experience growing this plant, because it is so valuable to perfumery, and I believe a number of artisan distillers and perfumers will be growing it this summer. I am willing to send out some seeds to those in North America, if your wish to try your hand a growing them. It will help if you’re in Zone 8b or higher, but if you start them early, and find a warm, sunny microclimate on your property, you may be able to grow them to a successful harvest. More about the free seeds at the end of this article.
Here’s what I found I was doing wrong: I was waiting until the pods had dried on the stalk, and perhaps had split open. Wrong! There are so few photos of ambrette pods on the Internet, yet alone any instructions on when to harvest and process them, I followed the lead of photos showing dried pods.
Image shows plump, colored ambrette seed pods and brown, dried seed pods. Harvest the plump, colored ones and follow instructions, below.
I was down to the last few plants and pods in late March, and after doing some research, and interpreting what they were hinting at, I decided that the pods may be best harvested before they dry on the stalk. So, you see a photo of some plump, colored pods that I harvested earlier this winter, and didn’t use because I thought the dried ones were good. I was so busy I didn’t get a photo of the final harvest of closed, plump, colored pods that I forgot to take a photo of them. When you grow them, harvest ones at the same stage of growth as the ones on the left.
Research indicated that in India, the pods are laid out on the ground to dry in the sun, and when dry, beaten with sticks to break up the husk, winnowed, and the seeds collected. I can’t put plants out to dry in humid, rainy Miami, so I just brought them inside, and allowed them to dry at 78F, my ambient room temperature with air-conditioning, and low humidity. They were loosely mounded in a large bowl, and allowed to dry for three weeks or so.
I open the pods by hand, pinching the pointed end, and peeling back the internal segments, and allowing the seeds to fall into a bowl. The meager one ounce I got from this harvest smelled fabulous, so feel my pain from the wasted/improperly-harvested pods, but learn from my error.
If you’d like to receive some of the unscented seeds, which should be very fertile, and grow plants that WILL produce scented seeds when properly harvested, leave a message in the comments section, and I’ll write you privately for your address.