In the not-so-distant long, long, time ago days, our ancestors took careful measures to save seeds. They carried them to new towns and across oceans. And although they had little else in the way of reassuring guarantees for food back then (Pizza Hut delivery was still a few years away), there are other worthy benefits to saving seeds than just a source of calories. Those seeds saved from your home garden are better acclimated to your climate and pests, and you'll see the benefit when they out-perform seeds bought in packets. And, let's not forget flavor. Just grew the best tomato on earth? No reason to risk bad ones next year. Save those seeds!
What Type of Seeds Can I Save?
If you save hybrid seeds, they will vary a great deal from their parents and the resulting crop may not be what you expected, unless you've been able to control the pollination process. Biennals, like beet, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, onion and parsley will send seed stalks, but not until their second season.
Non-hybrid seeds that are open-pollinator annuals, such as tomato, pepper, bean, eggplant, cucumber, summer squash, and watermelon are some of the easiest to save.
Tomato: The slimy covering of tomato seeds will prevent sprouting, so remove it through fermentation. Place seeds in a bowl with enough water to cover and leave for three days. When mold appears on the surface, add a bit more water, stir and scrape off mold. Repeat as needed until clean seeds are left. Leave those to dry at room temperature.
Peppers: These guys can cross-pollinate easily, so make sure they are growing 500 feet away from other peppers. Save seeds from a fully ripe pepper. Let them dry in a shaded, non-humid area. They should break, not bend, when fully dry.
Beans (and other legumes): These are very easy! Leave pods on the plant until they are completely dry and may have lost their color. Pick and remove the seeds.
Cucumbers: Split open an overripe (mushy) cucumber, remove the seeds and place them in a strainer or sieve, running cool water over them to remove the slimy coating. Rinse and dry completely.
Watermelon: Spit your seeds right into a strainer. Add dish soap to help remove the sugar before drying.
Seeds store best in a cool, dark and dry environment, like the refrigerator. Avoid opening the container until you are ready to plant. Storage length time varies. Melons can last five years, while most others will last only two or three, with some only a year.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger