In the last Seed Saver article we gave a brief introduction to some of the basic concepts of seed saving. In this edition we will continue our discussion with more information on harvesting and storing seeds that you are saving.
Saving tomato seeds is easy. Allow fruits to ripen fully and scoop out the seeds, along with the gel surrounding them, before you eat or cook the tomatoes. Put the seeds and gel in a glass jar with some water. Stir or swirl the mixture twice a day. The mixture will ferment and the seeds should sink to the bottom within five days. Pour off the liquid, rinse the seeds and spread them out to dry on paper towels.
Saving pepper seeds is even easier. Allow some fruits to stay on the plants until they become fully ripe and start to wrinkle. Remove the seeds from the peppers and spread them out to dry.
Save pea and bean seeds by allowing the pods to ripen on the plants until they’re dry and starting to turn brown, with the seeds rattling inside. This may be as long as a month after you would normally harvest the peas or beans to eat. Strip the pods from the plants and spread them out to dry indoors. They should dry at least two weeks before shelling, or you can leave the seeds in the pods until planting time.
Store seeds in tightly-sealed glass containers. You can store different kinds of seeds, each in individual paper packets, together in a large container. Keep seeds dry and cool. A temperature between 32° and 41°F is ideal, so your refrigerator can be a good place to store seeds.
A small amount of silica-gel desiccant added to each container will absorb moisture from the air and help keep the seeds dry. Silica gel is sold in bulk for drying flowers at craft supply stores. Powdered milk can also be used as a desiccant. Use one to two tablespoons of milk powder from a freshly opened package. Wrap the powder in a piece of cheesecloth or a facial tissue and place it in the container with the seeds. Powdered milk will absorb excess moisture from the air for about six months.
Be sure to label your saved seeds with their name, variety, and the date you collected them. It’s too easy to forget the details by the following spring.
Submitted by Ray Tackett, Agent for Horticulture, Bourbon Co. Cooperative Extension Service