Fall has officially arrived and the majority of my garden is turning brown. In the past, I would throw the dying plants in the compost bin at the end of the season and call it a day. I’d even compost those weird wrinkly veggies that seemed to be clinging to the plant for dear life. This seemed a bit wasteful to me, but they were gross and I wasn’t about to eat them.
A few years ago, I finally found a purpose for those wrinkly veggies. After a little research, I learned that you can actually save the seeds of many plants and store them for the following year. I was intrigued and luckily found a local seed saving course hosted by Seed Savers Exchange. They taught about the different seed saving methods for various species of plants. They also spoke about the genetics of the plants, as well as cross-pollination and how it can lead to some pretty funky looking fruits and vegetables.
Since then, I have gotten pretty creative and try to save seeds from almost everything! (Still attempting to grow that avocado tree…)
Here are a few helpful tips for anyone who is interested in saving seeds.
Tomato and pepper seeds are quite easy to save because their flowers are self-pollinating, which means there is very little concern about pollination between other plants in the same family. Plants like cucumbers are a bit trickier because they readily cross-pollinate with other plants in the Cucurbitaceae family, such as melons, pumpkins, squash and gourds. It is very important to keep this in mind when growing plants to use for seed saving as extra space may be needed between plants.
Removing the Seeds – Tomatoes & Peppers
Saving seed from tomatoes is super easy. Once the fruit is fully ripened, scoop out the seeds and place in a jar with some water for about five days. Be sure to stir or mix the contents 1-2 times per day. Eventually the seeds will separate and sink to the bottom of the jar. (Don’t worry if the mixture ferments!) Remove the seeds from the liquid, rinse them, and lay the seeds on paper towel to dry.
Pepper seeds are even easier to save than tomato seeds. Harvest the peppers from the plant after they become slightly wrinkly. Remove the seeds and lay them out on a paper towel to dry.
You can save seeds from almost any fruit, vegetable, or flowers. It just takes a bit of creativity and some research to know the best method to use for different varieties.
It is very important to keep seeds dry and cool. I typically use seed envelopes and store my seeds in the basement. Some people even refrigerate their seeds.
Importance of Seed Saving
Even when done on a small scale, seed saving allows us to protect the genetic integrity of plants and helps improve food security. This is especially true when saving seed from open pollinated heirloom plants because they are best equipped to adapt to climate changes, such as drought and early frosts. It is also a fun way to take gardening to the next level!
To learn more about Seed Savers Exchange and how to save non-GMO seed, please the Seed Savers Exchange website.