Saving Vegetable Seeds

A few tips will help you save vegetable seeds successfully to preserve heirloom varieties from big AG genetic modification

Save Pepper Seeds by Midwest Gardening.JPG

You finally found an heirloom or open pollinated tomato you can't live without.  Now how do you make sure you get that same perfect flavor, texture and juiciness year after year?  You save those seeds!

Saving flower seeds is usually pretty basic.  But there are just a couple of tricks to saving seeds for edibles.  Select the best plants for flavor and texture as well as health and vigor.  Now you will have to sacrifice at least one fruit, that's always hard with a cherished vegetable.

  • Tomato seeds are ready to save when you would normally harvest.  Firm but forgiving and full color
  • Pepper seeds are ready to save just past normal harvest.  Fully developed color but starting to shrivel
  • Cucumber seeds are ready to save well past normal harvest.  The fruit should be turning yellow.  Harvest and set aside for another few weeks.
  • Beans and pea seeds are ready to save when the pods start to brown and shrivel up around the seeds

What comes next is up to debate as far as meticulous harvesting of the seeds and preparation.  Remember that a fallen tomato left to rot in your garden will sprout plants next season.  Cucumbers tossed in the compost will produce cucumber plants all over when you spread the compost if it didn't get hot enough.  Point is, nature can do most of the work if you let it.  But you don't really want to store rotting produce like nature does, so cleaning things up is the normal process.

  • Scoop out seed masses from tomatoes and cucumbers.  Put them in a container covered with water for a few days.  Jiggle the container a bit every day.  In a few to several days the viable seeds will sink to the bottom and all the gunk and debris will float and begin to rot.  Scoop all that off the top to dispose of.  Rinse the seeds in a colander and spread on a sheet pan or plate to dry for several days before storing in an airtight container.
  • Peppers are easy.  Just cut open the pepper, brush out the seeds, and let them dry thoroughly on a screen or plate.
  • Beans and peas should be dried after removed their pods for at least six weeks.  
Sharon Dwyer