How to Save Seeds

This year I took it upon myself to to try to become more self sufficient and conscious about where I get my food and how it is grown, raised and processed. Other than fishing for food I have gotten back into hunting as well as frog gigging, turtle lining, raising rabbits and growing a garden as a food alternative to the common market place.

As a young man I did all of these things and over time I have somehow gotten away from it. I now want to pass these things on to my children so they to can learn and hopefully someday pass it on to their children. The way the world has become these days it is best to be prepared and be able to take care of yourself than to depend on others.

With that said here are some basics that you should know when saving your seeds for the next years harvest.


Saving seed is smart and is a critical skill for self-sufficiency. Saving seed also saves time and money. Plants produced from homegrown seeds may be better adapted to local climate conditions and pests.

To replicate desirable traits, save seed from open-pollinated plants only. Choose well-developed fruit with strong stems and vibrant foliage. Do not save seed from diseased, poorly-developed or accidentally crossed plants.

Melon and watermelon can be harvested at edible stage or left on the vine to ripen further. Scoop out seeds and rinse well. Dry.

Cucumber should be left on the vine past ideal eating ripeness in order for seeds to fully mature. Harvest bloated and orange cucumbers, scoop out seeds and rinse away pulp.
Squash, both summer and winter, can be harvested at edible stage or left in the field until a hard frost is expected. To save seed, cut squash open, scoop out seed, soak overnight and rinse away pulp. Dry.

Allow beans, cowpea and peas to dry on the plant. When the pods are 80% yellow-brown, cut the plant and harvest the seed. Dry.

Peppers should be harvested when they look ready to eat. Remove seed and dry.

Saving tomato seeds takes a little more time, but it’s just as easy. Harvest ripe tomatoes from several different vines of the same variety, cut each across the middle, and gently squeeze the juice and seeds into a bowl. You’ll see that each tomato seed is encased in a gelatinous coating. (This prevents the seed from sprouting inside the tomato). Remove this coating by fermenting it. This mimics the natural rotting of the fruit and has the added bonus of killing any seed-borne tomato diseases that might affect next year’s crop. To ferment the seeds, add about half as much water as there are tomato seeds and juice in the bowl and stir the mixture twice a day for about three days. Keep a close eye on the mixture—especially if it’s a warm area, as fermentation happens more quickly at high temperatures. As the mixture ferments, its surface will become covered with white or gray mold.

When bubbles begin to rise to the top of the mass, or when a thick coat of mold has formed, stop the fermentation by adding enough water to double the mixture, and stir vigorously. The clean, good seeds will settle to the bottom of the bowl. Gently pour off mold, debris and any seeds that float (they’re hollow). Add more water and repeat the process until only clean seeds remain.

Capture the seeds to be saved by pouring the liquid through a strainer, wipe the strainer bottom with a towel to remove as much moisture as possible, then dump the seeds onto a glass or ceramic plate to dry. Stir twice a day to ensure even drying and to prevent the seeds from clumping together.

Corn and popcorn must dry in-husk on the stalks. After the husk is completely dry, remove it and use your fingers to remove the corn kernels from the cob. Dry.

Okra must dry on the plant. It is adequately dry when it rattles. Cut okra open, remove seed.

To save the seeds of your eggplants, you’ll need to wait until the fruits are far past the stage when you’d pick them for eating. Any seeds saved from table-ready eggplants will be immature and won’t be viable. If left on the plant, purple eggplant varieties will ripen to a dull brownish color, green varieties to a yellowish green, and white varieties to golden. Eggplants ready for seed saving will be dull, off-colored, hard, and sometimes shriveled.

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