Below is a list of some of the most common vegetable seeds and how to save them
Peas and Beans
Allow beans and pea pods to dry on the vine. They must be fully dried and brown before harvesting for seeds. If frost threatens before the pods turn brown, cut the plant and hang it in a dry place to allow the pods to finish turning. The seeds will continue to draw energy from the plant which will increase seed viability.
Some other vegetables will produce pods as well and tend to burst open if left to dry on the plant, spreading its seed before you can get a chance to harvest it. You can tie bags over the pods as they dry to catch any pods that burst open or can try to harvest the seeds at just the right time; after the pod has dried but before it has opened and dropped it’s seeds.
Squash And Pumpkin Seeds
Harvest your ripe squash or pumpkin, and simply collect the seeds. Wash them, and lay them out to dry. Drying may take up to a few weeks. They are sufficiently dried when they crack instead of bending.
Scrape the seeds from the inside of the pepper, spread out on a tray and leave to dry. Like the squash and pumpkin seeds, they are finished drying when you can crack them open rather than them bending.
Tomatoes and Cucumbers
Tomato seeds, like Cucumber seeds, are a bit more difficult to save. Both seeds have a coating on them that must be eroded before they can be stored. To free the seeds from the coating, place the whole seedy center of the tomato in a shallow dish in a sunny location. Spritz them with water, just enough to keep them wet, and leave them wet like that for a couple of days. Stir every day. Once some debris starts to form in the water, the viable seeds will sink. Give them a good rinse and then lay out to dry like any other seeds. The cucumber seeds too should soak in water and be carefully scrubbed free of their coating before being dried and saved.
It is possible to save both tomato and cucumber seeds without going through this process and have success; just at a lower germination rate than if they are properly fermented prior to saving.
Melons often have seeds at various stages of development come harvest time. Once you have collected and washed the seeds to free them of any fibres and membranes, put them in a glass of water. Any seeds which do not sink to the bottom of the jar are not viable; skim the waste from the top of the water and save the seeds that sink. Lay them out to dry as you would other seeds.
Biennials grow their roots and greens in the first year, and then flower in their second year. In order to bring a biennial all the way to seed, you’ll likely have to harvest the entire plant, store it for the first winter, and then replant it the following spring. While you can just leave the plant in the ground to overwinter, chances are the frigid temperatures could kill the plant altogether. When saving seeds, it’s also beneficial to choose the plants with the most desirable traits to save seeds from, as those genetics will be passed on to the seeds and thus a plant more adapted to your unique climate will grow. For this reason, it is better to dig up your entire biennials and choose the best to save for planting the following spring. Save root vegetables by layering them in sand or peat moss, keeping them from touching each other, in a root cellar or somewhere that is cold, but no as frigid as the outdoors over winter. Maintain a level of moisture for your roots while they overwinter. Replant in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked.
Carrots produce large seed heads with many tiny seeds in them. To harvest the seeds, wait until the seed head has matured and begun to turn brown and dry up. Cut the entire seed head and place upside down in a paper bag to finish drying. When drying is complete, give the seed head a good shuffle inside the bag to release all the remaining seeds, and then pour seeds into your desired packet or canister.
Cabbage seeds come from pods directly behind the flowers. To release them, rub the pods between your fingers to crush the pod and allow everything to fall into a bowl. once you’ve finished breaking all the pods, wait for a breezy day to complete the next step. In the wind, lift the bowl a few inches and slowly pour it’s contents in to a second bowl. The wind will pick up the leafy debris and the seeds will drop to the second bowl where they can be collected for storage.
Beets, Turnips, Rutabagas and Cauliflower are other biennial vegetables that similarly produce seeds. All will form seed heads which will either drop seeds on their own or need to be pinched and rolled between the fingers to release them.
The importance of saving seeds is re-emerging as people are finding fewer varieties available by commercial sellers. Did you know that fewer than half of the worlds vegetable varieties are commercially sold? The others can only be acquired by trade or gift from a local seed-saver! A huge benefit to saving your own seeds is that the vegetables that you grow in your garden adapt to the local conditions and pass those traits on genetically to the seeds. As you grow crops of your favorite variety and harvest seeds from the best of the best plants each year, you develop a specific strain that is naturally adapted to grow best in your garden or local climate. Become a seed saver and start spreading the beauty of diversity in seeds!