Lucerne trees flower throughout winter and by spring will form seed pods, first pale green and then turning brown. As they mature, seed pods dry and turn dark brown on the trees. Several clients have asked when these seed pods are ready to harvest. We normally harvest in mid-summer, in November and December here in South Africa.
To test when the seeds are ready to harvest, twist the dark brown pods to feel if they are dry and if they easily crack or pop open. If the pods are still green, the pods will not crack open. Also, the seeds will be small and flat and the seed germ on each seed will still be light green and the seeds will remain attached to the pod. Wait a little longer. It is best if the seeds dry and mature on the tree. In a few weeks, test again to see if the pods crack open when you twist them. Usually, when they are ready, you will hear the pods popping on the trees as they dry out.
To hand harvest, pick the dry pods off the trees and store them in a feed bag. Use containers such as feed bags, fabric bags, baskets or open buckets to prevent mould from developing. Keep your seed pods in a cool, dark place and allow them to dry completely.
Because we have so many trees to harvest, we prune the longer branches with all their brown pods and bring them and lay the branches on a tarp in a dry storeroom so that we can catch all the seeds as the pods pop and release their seeds.
When you want to remove the seeds from the pods, place them in the sun and most of the seed pods will pop open naturally. We also give the pods a few knocks which usually cracks them open. We normally do this while the seed pods are in feed bags or on a tarp. Then sift the seeds. We shake them through an open-weave shade cloth or winnow the seed pod mix in front of an industrial fan.
Always store your seeds sealed in bags or bottles and kept in a dry, cool, dark place. Dry, mature seeds will store perfectly for a year or more if stored properly. Your lucerne trees will provide huge seed harvests!
Just note — Some lucerne trees put everything into their seed production and we have found some perfectly healthy mature trees die after prolific seed production. It is important to prune flowering trees to prevent these losses. We select some trees for seed production and prune the rest to prevent an overproduction and tree losses.
You can order seeds and trees on our Orders page.