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Confession: I’m not the most dedicated seed saver. Sure, I gather the seeds of – what I like to call – ‘Level 1’ veggies, flowers, and herbs. These are the ones that produce seed which is VERY easy (foolproof, really) to gather and save like nasturtiums, marigolds, zinnias, calendula, beans, peas, poppies, lettuce, and dill. For the most part, these seeds dry on the plants and I collect them once the seeds are dry or rattling around in their pods.
Most years I will also save seeds from a few of the overmature fruits on my tomato and cucumber vines – my ‘Level 2’ plants. Properly saving the seeds of these ‘wet’ fruits requires the additional step of fermenting, which breaks down the gelatinous coating that surrounds the seeds and inhibits germination. If you have any varieties that are particular favorites, it’s worth saving these seeds. Why? By collecting and saving the seed from your hardiest and healthiest plants, you will eventually develop a strain of the variety that is acclimatized to your individual region. How cool is that?
Related Post: Beans are the new zucchini
Collecting bean seeds:
If you’ve never saved seeds from your garden, I think beans are the perfect place to start. Not only are they very easy to gather, dry, and store, but the flowers are self-pollinating, which minimizes the risk of cross-pollination. Therefore, you’ll most likely end up with seeds from the same variety of beans that you originally planted. This year I grew five varieties of open-pollinated pole beans, with some growing on bamboo teepees and others on sturdy A-frame trellises. Even though they are self-fertile, an industrious bee can cross-pollinate the flowers from time to time, so I try to keep the varieties separate.
Four simple steps to saving bean seeds:
- Harvest bean seeds once the pods have dried on the plants (about six weeks after the fresh eating stage). If a frost threatens, pull the bean plants and hang them in a warm, dry spot.
- Pop open the dried bean pods and collect the large seeds.
- Further dry the bean seeds by spreading them in a single layer on a screen or sheet of newspaper in an airy location for a week or two.
- Once dry (try to press a fingernail into one of the seeds. If it leaves a mark, further drying is necessary), store bean seeds in envelopes or jars, keeping them in a cool and dry location. I keep small packets of silica gel that are usually tucked in new purses, new shoes and other items, adding them into the jar or envelope of bean seeds to absorb any moisture.
What’s your favourite seed to save?