Fall is the perfect time to harvest and save your own seeds. Here are a few simple strategies to follow to increase your chances of success.
– Some seeds require a fermentation process to remove germination-inhibiting substances from the seed coat. The process of fermentation mimics the natural process that takes place as fruits rot or pass through the gut of an animal. Fermentation is required for tomato seeds and is helpful for members of the squash family, as well as eggplants. It can increase germination rates and kill some seed bourn pathogens. To ferment, squeeze the seeds and any surrounding gel or pulp from very ripe fruits, into a jar with enough water to cover the seeds. Put the jar in a warm place (75-85 degrees F), stirring it daily. For tomatoes, fermentation is complete in five days, but members of the squash family should be fermented for only 1 1/2 days. For eggplant seeds, the ideal fermentation time is 3 days. Fermenting too long begins the germination process and limits seed viability. Once fermentation is complete, drain and rinse the seeds. Dry them for two weeks on a glass or ceramic plate, or on a coffee filter, before packing them away for storage.
– For other wet seeds (those surrounded by flesh like cucumbers and melons): Scoop the seeds and pulp from very ripe fruits and put them in a bowl of water. Use your fingers to separate the seeds from the pulp. For larger seeds, this will be an easy task. Remove the pulp and strain off the water. Allow the seeds to fully dry in a warm, dry location for several weeks before storing.
– For dry seeds (those in pods or husks that, when dry, readily separate from the seeds): Harvest the seeds only when they are completely dry. Seeds of beans, peas, carrots, beets, and the like should be allowed to stay on the plant until the seed pods begin to crack open and naturally dehisce.
What are your favorite tips for harvesting and saving seeds?