Collecting non-hybrid seeds from fruit and vegetables is an excellent and fun way to continue your crop year after year. Proper cleaning and storage of these seeds will ensure the highest level of seed viability and therefore success. When collecting or buying seeds, pay close attention to the geographic area that is best suited for the seeds optimal growth. Annual fruits and vegetables grown in the southern United States may not grow with the same vigor in the northern United States and vice versa.
Fruits and vegetables that allow easy removal of their seeds include all types of peppers, green, pole and bush beans and even peas.
- Simply remove the seeds, provide a clean water washing, gently wipe away loose material and place the seeds on a paper towel for three days to thoroughly dry.
For a fruit like a tomato, pulp does not easily come off the seed. Compounded by the fact that it is very “goopy” can make cleaning efforts difficult. Our goal is to separate the pulp and bad seed from the viable seed. Removing the pulp is instrumental because the pulp often contains anti-germination enzymes as well as acts as a vector for mold.
- To do this, place the seed and pulp into any container and add water. Let the seed/pulp mixture sit in the water and allow it to ferment over several days. (It might be best to place this in a garage or shed where the sight or odor will not offend!) Occasionally agitate the pulp and seed with a spoon. By doing this viable seed will fall to the bottom ofthe container while the pulp and bad seeds will remain at the surface. Remember that viable seeds can float when the pulp is still attached to them. Only the seeds that are free of pulp and still float to the surface should be discarded.
- Alternatively, if you have a fine mesh screen, you can very easily separate the pulp from the seed with the aid of a little water. Rubbing the seeds against the wire mesh should remove any pulp. This might be the best way if the thought of fermented pulp is too much!
- Once the seed is free of pulp, place them on a paper towel and in an area that is warm and dry. Make sure that the seeds are not bunched or stacked together. After three days there should be no remaining water and the seeds should be dry to the touch.
Now we are ready to store our seeds until time for spring germination.
- Find a breathable container such as a manila envelope to place the seeds in. Avoid plastic bags if possible because these bags can trap moisture very well and just a small amount could cause mold. Label and date the package immediately (You will not remember months from now!)
- Place your seeds in a refrigerator or keep them in an unheated garage for the winter. Prolonged exposure to excessive moisture and heat will decrease the viability of the seeds as well as provide a good environment for fungal development.
Once spring rolls around you will have reliable seeds ready for germination and a full growing season of fruits and vegetables for everyone to enjoy.