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Sat Dec 10, 2011, 10:48 AM

Seeds that are easy to save - some very basic techniques (just the start...)

Last edited Mon Dec 12, 2011, 10:09 PM - Edit history (6)

This discussion thread is pinned.
Seed saving needn't be intimidating or scary. It is a great way to pass along favorites, build the gardening community, save money, move toward self-sufficiency, and discover wonderful surprises (and of course there is always the possibility of spectacular failures!)



I will start this post and also use it as a sort of placeholder for future editing as things come to mind. But here are some easy seeds to save, how to do it (very high level), and what you might expect. I will work on this a bit each day I can get the chance. Let me know if there is anything specific you want me to include. (also, I am going to save this in a Word doc and repost when DU3 goes live, in case it all gets scrubbed)

One thing to note is that crossing of varieties is always a possibility - peppers cross more easily than tomatoes for example. If you are a serious seed saver of historic varieties, this is important to consider. If you are just growing for the produce, crossing is what can provide surprises - but the surprises will still be edible of course.

One other thing - many of us grow hybrid varieties, so saved seed will often produce something quite different.

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Vegetables:

Peppers - super easy.

With the exception of a very few varieties (Permagreen, one other recent hybrid whose name escapes me), no pepper is green when ripe. Green peppers - both hot and sweet -are on their way to turning some other color. Pepper seeds can only be saved successfully from peppers at their final, fully ripe color (typically red, but also orange, yellow or chocolate brown....). All that is involved - cut open the pepper and scrape the seeds onto a labeled paper plate - let air dry for a few weeks. Store the seeds in coin envelopes or bottles or vials. Well dried, well stored pepper seeds don't last all that long - 3 to 5 years. Storage in the freezer increases the time seeds stay viable, but only if the seed is well dried, and moisture doesn't get in during the time spent in the freezer.

As far as varieties - most commonly grown bell peppers these days are hybrids. The good news - saving seeds from hybrid peppers is fine - it's just that you won't know what you get - which can be fun. Whatever you get will be edible. And saving seeds from hybrids can lead to new varieties after 5-6 years of selection work (I've been working with a lovely lavender hybrid, Blue Jay, for many years, and now have 5 new named varieties of different colors that I've sent to Johnny's Selected Seeds for testing).

Tomatoes - not quite as super easy as peppers, but kind of fun (and stinky!). As far as variety, you can save seeds from all tomatoes. If they are hybrids, what you get when you grow out the seeds is not at all certain - could be very similar, or very, very different - both in appearance and flavor.

There are a number of ways to do this, but I will share mine. I take ripe condition tomatoes, cut them in half and squeeze the pulp and seeds into a labeled plastic or styrofoam cup. If it is really dry, add just a bit of water so it swirls. Place it somewhere warm (not in full sun) where the smell of fermenting tomato pulp and the insects it will attract are not a bother (we use a garage work bench - and loosely cover with paper towels). Depending on the temperature, in from 1-4 days the mixture begins to ferment, and a white fungus layer forms on the top (could also be different colors). If it is 80 or above in temp, don't let this go longer than 2-3 days - the fermentation breaks down the slippery seed coat - which allows the germination inhibitor coating each seed to wash away. So if you let this go too long, you will start to grow your seeds, which will ruin them for saving.

Once this is ready, bring them into the house or work in the garage (this part smells!) - add water to fill each cup, stir well with a spoon and let things settle. The seeds should sink, and the fungal layer and pulp will float - pour off the gunk - then add more water, stir again - pour off the top, then pour the remaining water with seeds into a sieve. Rinse with the faucet, move the seeds around with a spoon - you should have a mass of nice clean seeds. Spread them onto an unglazed paper plate and let them air dry (we use our dining room table) for a week or so.

I don't store them in extraordinary conditions - just in my office, normal temp - in snap top plastic or screw top glass vials. The key is keeping them dry. Tomato seeds processed this way last fine for at least 10 years - I've germinated 15 year old seed just fine.

One more thing - tomatoes don't cross all that easily (I grow mine pretty close together and my typical crossing rate is around 3-5%. That can be lowered to near zero just by saving seeds from the first few tomatoes that set - before the bees get busy in the flowers)

Eggplant - kind of between peppers and tomatoes for ease. Same stuff goes as stated above for hybrid vs non hybrid - all results will be edible - if you save seeds from hybrids all bets are off (but it is fun!).

So here is the surprise - any eggplant that is not golden yellow is unripe. To allow eggplant to be in good shape for seed saving, let one hang on the plant until it turns yellow (even the black ones will do this - as well the green, white, pink - you get the idea). Cut it in half, immerse in a bowl of water and work your fingers around the seed lines in the flesh, freeing the seeds. Toss the seedless pulp - the good seeds will sink - pour off the gunk filled water - add more water and get to the point where you have just water and sunk seeds. Pour through a sieve - then scrape the seeds onto a labeled paper plate. Let them air dry for a week or two - from one eggplant you will get loads of seed - they will remain good to go for 3-5 years.

Beans - super easy. Beans don't tend to cross pollinate, and there are few if any hybrid beans, so no worries on both crossing and future surprises (though there is always the odd unexpected thing, usually indicated by a change in dry seed color). Let the beans hang on the plant until the pods get oversized and start to dry. Some bean types (especially green snap beans) have thick flesh and don't dry all that well without getting moldy. When the pods are quite dry - the beans are large and loose in the pods - just open them up and dry them on a plate for a few weeks - they will shrink and get hard and shiny and sometimes change to a final dry color. Store them dry - they should be good for 3-5 years.

Peas - super easy - and same guidelines apply as in beans, above.

Cucumbers and squash - easy to save, but can be an adventure. Just as all eggplants end up yellow when seed saving-ripe, same with cukes and squash. The issues are crossing, esp. with squash. Cukes and squash can't cross - and they can't cross with melons. But - cuke varieties grown in the same garden can easily cross, and squash with other squash. But in all cases, leave the veggie on the plant until large and hard in the case of squash - the summer squash will get immense of course - cut them open and dry the seeds you find. Think pumpkins....For cukes, wait until the fruit get large and yellow, then cut open and rinse and spread the seeds on a paper plate to dry. Cuke and squash seed is good for 3-5 years if kept nice and dry.

Melons - easy to save, again - an adventure Any melon in edible ripe stage is Ok for seed saving - so cut them in half, rinse the gunk off the seeds and dry on a plate. The big issue with melons - crossing with other melons in the garden (muskmelons can't cross with watermelon - but different cataloupes can cross with each other, ditto for different watermelon). Dried melon seed is good for 3-5 years. And seed from hybrid melons will of course be highly variable in the grow-out!

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Flowers and Herbs

Basil - super easy. Of course, if you have different types growing near each other, saved seed could be crossed. But....let the plant go to flower, then to seed - the seed pods will turn brown. Gently cut them off and put into a paper bag - shake well - let dry for another week, shaking occasionally. Remove the stems - what should be at the bottom of the bag are the little black seeds. Basil seeds if kept dry will be good for 3-5 years.

Coriander (Cilantro) - super easy - pretty much the same as basil. It bolts quickly anyway - let the flowers form, which will then turn brown - the round tan seeds are easy to spot. Cut the flower heads, put in a bag, shake well....

Chervil - super easy - same as above - the plants flower, then seeds form.

Dill - super easy - same as above.

Hibiscus - super easy - but some hibiscus (the fancy hybrid types) don't seem to set seed. It is easy to spot of they do - after the flower petals drop off, what is left swells, then turns brown and starts to split open. Carefully cut off the brown pods, put in a bag, shake, then open up the pods to free more seeds - they are furry/medium sized and round, nearly black.

Marigold - easy, but there could be a catch. some of the recent hybrids are sterile - they don't set viable seeds. What to look for (this is really fun - my dad taught me to save marigold seeds as a very young boy) - once the flower really dried up and the part at the base turns brown, tug the dried petals - you should get a cluster of marigold seeds - black and slender with a white feathery top.

Zinnia - easy - same as Marigolds - the seeds form at the base of the petals on the dried flower heads - they are narrow and slender and dark brown.

Cosmos - easy - same as above - flowers form, dry up, at the base of where the petals were swells and turns brown and contains the hard, slender black, slightly curved seeds.

What else would people like to save? Let me know....these are the easy ones. More challenging are things like carrots (biennial), lettuce (takes a long time), broccoli etc - but I can provide info for whatever people are interested in.

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Arrow 24 replies Author Time Post
Reply Seeds that are easy to save - some very basic techniques (just the start...) (Original post)
NRaleighLiberal Dec 2011 OP
beac Dec 2011 #1
NRaleighLiberal Dec 2011 #2
Denninmi Dec 2011 #3
NRaleighLiberal Dec 2011 #4
PuraVidaDreamin Dec 2011 #5
NRaleighLiberal Dec 2011 #6
NRaleighLiberal Dec 2011 #7
JDPriestly Dec 2011 #8
Gato Moteado Dec 2011 #9
backtoblue Dec 2011 #10
kestrel91316 Jan 2012 #11
NRaleighLiberal Jan 2012 #12
messenger of god Mar 2012 #13
NRaleighLiberal Mar 2012 #14
i am me. i am free. Feb 2013 #15
NRaleighLiberal Feb 2013 #16
i am me. i am free. Feb 2013 #17
Old Terp Jun 2020 #24
N_E_1 for Tennis May 2013 #18
sendero Jul 2014 #19
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2014 #20
Grasswire2 Mar 2019 #21
NRaleighLiberal Mar 2019 #22
Grasswire2 Mar 2019 #23

Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 02:40 PM

1. Be sure to make an offline copy of this post b/c I've heard a "rumor" that

everything will be wiped from DU3 when replaces DU2, i.e. all the forums/groups will be blank on day one and/or replaces by old content from DU2. Not sure WHY that would be necessary or if it's even true, but would hate to lose all the work you are putting into this thread.

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Response to beac (Reply #1)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 06:18 PM

2. don't worry - got a Word doc with my recipes and this thread...so if they go, they will return!

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 07:23 AM

3. Thanks for posting this.

Just a couple of thoughts for now.

Hybrid seeds - yes, they may be different, but often still worth doing. The tomato folks know (I guess, I'm just casually into this whole saving/breeding business) that you can "convert" a hybrid into an OP line over a few years if you do it right. I've saved seeds from Fourth of July and Sungold and was very satisfied with the offspring, didn't really see all that much difference, although with several generations Sungold tomatoes get a lot smaller and paler, but flavor stays fine.

Thought # 2 -- don't do what I did just a few weeks ago, which was harvest a bunch of mature seed heads of artichokes and cardoon, then put them on a cookie sheet near a heat register in an unused room and walk away a while and forget them. They fluffed out like the giant thistles they are, and I ended up having to clean up silk parachutes all over the place -- when I went in there, the air currents made them fly. Neat to see, but messy. In the future, I'll dry them in a mesh bag so they can't escape.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Mon Dec 12, 2011, 10:51 AM

4. Kicking because I've added quite a bit to this

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Mon Dec 12, 2011, 07:30 PM

5. this is great!

All the above I've been able to save successfully. Last year I saved and was successful with starflower,
celosia, and glove amaranth. Do you place your seeds in the freezer over the winter?

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Response to PuraVidaDreamin (Reply #5)

Mon Dec 12, 2011, 10:10 PM

6. Thanks! No, I just have vials, bottles, packets, envelopes of seeds

sitting in various boxes and flats in my office. No way I could freeze them all - I've got about 5,000 samples of tomato seeds alone!

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 01:16 AM

7. Kicking this to let you know I've pretty much completed a first draft....

anything missing? any questions??

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Wed Dec 21, 2011, 06:04 AM

8. Thanks. I hope you don't mind. I copied this to my gardening documents file.

Great tips. I really appreciate it.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Tue Dec 27, 2011, 12:35 PM

9. Great stuff! Any ideas on how to collect seeds from passion fruits?

nt

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 10:48 AM

10. Thanks!! Great info here.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 05:10 PM

11. Cucurbits such as squash and cukes interbreed and cross-pollinate so readily that

 

if you save their seeds without isolating the flowers (I forget how this is done) you will get bizarre hybrids pretty much all the time.

The seed saver's book I have put away somewhere discussed this, IIRC.

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Response to kestrel91316 (Reply #11)

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 05:51 PM

12. Howdy - actually, squash only pollinate squash, and cukes cukes - so

that's not a problem. But different squash will cross with each other, different cukes, different melons, etc.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 10:02 AM

13. What exactly would the output of the hybrid seeds entail?

 

You said it was highly variable and I am interested in what are the possibilities (freakish?).

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Response to messenger of god (Reply #13)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 11:14 AM

14. it depends upon the width of the cross - meaning how different the parents were

and how many recessive traits are involved.

So with Burpee's Big Boy - which is a medium red crossed with a large pink - you could get large red, medium red, large pink, medium pink and variations in between.

If it is a red, say, crossed with a green/pink stripe, you could get all sorts of things.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)


Response to i am me. i am free. (Reply #15)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 04:14 PM

16. cilantro is rare as a seedling because it bolts so fast in warm weather...

and actually even transplanting it seems to hasten bolting. it is best to buy seeds and just plant some, and replant every few weeks so that you use/cut the ones that grow, then just toss them when they go to flower and you will have more in reserve.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #16)


Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #16)

Mon Jun 29, 2020, 05:38 PM

24. I just leave a few plants to drop their seeds in the garden.

The new plants make it through the winter fine here in southern Maryland. In the spring I can harvest. Too bad the tomatoes won't be ready for a couple of months.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Wed May 15, 2013, 03:17 PM

18. Be sure to start with good seeds

When I have to buy I get my seeds from sustainable seeds.com. What you eat one year will be in your garden the next with the seed keeping ideas posted here.
Thanks for the info. Great post.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Tue Jul 1, 2014, 08:32 PM

19. FWIW...

.... we save tomato seeds by simply getting them into a colander, rinsing the goop off them and letting them dry. Never have any problem getting them to germinate.

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Response to sendero (Reply #19)

Tue Jul 1, 2014, 10:20 PM

20. that works fine - I like to ferment in case of seed coat-borne diseases

many of my plants have various levels of disease by the mid to end of the season, and fermenting can help eliminate them

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Original post)

Fri Mar 22, 2019, 01:52 AM

21. I saved a large sunflower head from a neighbor's yard...

...and was getting ready to start the seeds inside. Then I thought (dummy me) about whether the seed will germinate from within the shell, or not! The kernel is really the seed. But I watched a video on youtube and the farmer just collected seeds from the old dry head into the furrow. So I guess I'm good.

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Response to Grasswire2 (Reply #21)

Fri Mar 22, 2019, 10:28 AM

22. yes, you are good!

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #22)

Fri Mar 22, 2019, 12:00 PM

23. Thanks

The soil on this riverside property is terrible. Dry, hard. I don't get good results at planting flowers directly. But I'm going to try these. Neighbor's sunflowers are ten feet high beautiful blooms and they come up every year. (He's not on the river bank.)

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