In September 2013 I participated in a webinar hosted by the American Community Gardening Association. The topic was on seed saving, and the speaker was one of the experienced employees from Seed Saver’s Exchange [SSE], a well-known heirloom seed company. I was so impressed with the simple techniques that SSE used even on a relatively large commercial scale that community and home gardeners can also use.
Dry seeds- For beans, mustard, cabbage, radishes, and other dry seeds that come in a pod, allow the pod to dry on the plant. The following method is called ‘threshing’. Gather up the seeds in a sack like a pillowcase. Jump on the sack gently to crush the pods. Then pour them into a bucket and most of the pod pieces, called ‘chaff’ will land on top and you can pick them up. Next, you will use a process called ‘winnowing’. Place an empty bucket in on the ground front of a fan. Pour the seeds and chaff out of the bucket in the breeze created by the fan. The lightweight chaff will blow away. The heavier seeds will land in the bucket on the ground.
Wet Seeds with Pulp- Tomato seeds will not germinate if they still have any pulp left on them, even if the pulp is dried. This method also works for cucumbers. Squeeze out seeds and pulp into a jar. Let it sit for 3 days. The pulp will begin to ferment. Fermentation breaks down the enzymes in the pulp that prevent the seeds from germinating. Next, pour the fermented stuff into a bucket with water. Good seeds will sink to the bottom while bad seeds and pulp will float to the top. Pour the water off 3 times. Then rinse the good seeds in a strainer. Allow the seeds to dry on a towel before packaging them in envelopes or jars for storage.
For eggplants or other plants where the seeds are hard to separate from the fruit, use a dough blade in a food processor to slowly chop up the fruit. Then use the fermentation method explained above.
All seeds should be completely dry before storage so they don’t rot. SSE recommended placing seeds on a screen near a fan in a room that is below 80 degrees. Do not dry seeds in the oven. The seeds should be hard and brittle and free of surface moisture.
This webinar made me feel much more confident when saving seeds from my beloved veggie, herb and flower varieties!