Six Ways to Screen and Winnow Seeds

Simple Tools for Threshing Seeds

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
October 21, 2021
Cleaning and separating seeds by shaking them through a set of screens. Six Ways to Screen and Winnow Seeds

A set of screens can simplify the task of cleaning barley seed.

Gardeners who save seed, or grow and harvest grains, know that separating seeds from their pods or husks can be a time-consuming job. While large industrial growers use machines to thresh and winnow seed crops, home seed savers can look to a number of simpler tools to accomplish the task. Once cleaned, seeds stored in moisture-proof containers can last for several years.

Here are six devices for separating seeds from debris and chaff:

Low-Tech Ways for Separating Seeds

• Pillowcase or Cloth Sack – Perhaps the most common method of hand threshing, place seed pods in the sack and thrash (“thresh”) it against a hard surface to break the seeds from their coverings.

• Boards – Place harvested seed pods between two boards and apply gentle pressure to crack open the pods. Take care not to press so hard you split the seeds.

• Screens or Strainers – Screens with meshes of varying sizes provide a quick way to separate debris from seeds. Even using a single screen is a vast improvement over hand picking. Screens work especially well for seeds (such as lettuce) that do not have pods. A set of graduated screens will cut out about 80 percent of the hand work. You can build screens yourself or buy them pre-built.

• Wind Power – Outside on a breezy day, drop seed from one container into another and let the wind blow away the unwanted chaff.

• Electric Fan – While wind can be fickle and blow your chaff in unexpected directions, a fan set on low will produce a steady stream of air for winnowing.

• Gravity – This works well for round seeds. Use gravity to help roll seeds down a newspaper into a container. The heavier seeds roll down, while the chaff remains behind.


Slideshow: How to Screen and Winnow Seeds

Sage seeds that have been harvested and left to dry.
A wide-meshed screen removes the main chaff and debris.
A succession of finer-meshed screens separate out the seed.
When the sage reaches the finest-meshed screen, mainly seeds and a little chaff remain.
To winnow out the chaff, seeds are dropped from one bowl to the next.
As the seeds drop, the wind blows away the chaff.
After winnowing, only a very small amount of chaff remains.
Rolling the seeds off a paper leaves behind the rest of the chaff.
Sage seeds that have been harvested and left to dry.

Using newspaper, wind power and simple screens, this slideshow demonstrates several easy ways to separate seeds from their pods and husks. Many of the methods use materials already found at home.



More articles:
Threshing Dried BeansThreshing Dried Beans: A Low-Tech Method for Small-Scale Growers

How to Save Tomato SeedsHow to Save Tomato Seeds

The Seeds of SustainabilityThe Seeds of Sustainability

10 Tips for Year-Round Vegetable Gardens10 Tips for Year-Round Vegetable Gardens

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