By Catherine Winter
If you’ve grown some varieties that you really love, be sure to save a bunch of their seeds! Both to grow again next year, and to trade with your friends/family. One cannot have too much biodiversity in one’s own vegetable garden, and it’s always wonderful to discover new varieties to love.
To save seeds from both cherry and full-size tomatoes, scrape the seeds out and place them in a very fine sieve. Rub gently to remove as much pulp as you can, and alternate between that and running them under water to rinse the pulp away.
After you’ve done that, put the seeds in a clean jar filled with about half a cup of room-temperature water, and seal with the lid. Place that in a cool, dark cupboard and shake gently a couple of times a day.
In about a week, you should see bubbles forming, and most of the seeds will have sunk to the bottom: those are the viable ones. Any of the floaters will be infertile, so toss those into the compost bin.
Rinse the viable seeds in your sieve again, then place them on a piece of paper to let them dry. After a day or so, you can either remove them from the paper and store them in a paper or glassine envelope.
Alternatively, store that entire piece of paper in a larger kraft paper envelope. Come springtime, just tear or cut the paper into pieces with the seeds left in place, and plant the seeded paper directly into your soil.
Beans and peas
If you’ve discovered some fabulous beans or pea varieties, that’s awesome: they’re incredibly easy to save. Just let some pods mature fully and dry in the sun as much as possible.
Once the skins have started to shrivel up a bit, pick them and put them in a basket or paper bag for a week or so to dry out a bit more.
Then pop the beans/peas out of the dried casings and store them in paper envelopes or glass jars until next planting season. If they’re climbing varieties, you can even grow them indoors over the winter on strings or mesh hung over a sunny window
Pumpkins and squashes
You know those slippery, gooey innards that squash and pumpkins have? Pick as many seeds as possible out of that mess, and then place them in a colander or other strainer. Rinse them as clean as possible, then spread them on a screen (like an old, clean window screen).
Let these dry in a warm place for a week or so. Then place in a paper bag and store in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant them again.
(Be sure to save extra if you’d like to roast them as snacks, because who doesn’t love those, really?)
Melons and cucumbers
Use the same technique as for the pumpkin and squash seeds, but try to harvest them from a plant that you’ve allowed to mature for as long as possible out in the garden.
Seriously, wait until the thing is close to rotting before you harvest them.
Why? Because the seeds within actually get more fertile and viable the longer leave the fruits attached to their stems. If you elevate the fruits on rocks or bricks (or even suspended via some fetching old stockings), the air circulation will delay their decomposition.
Once the skin hardens, you’ll know the seeds are at their best and are ready to harvest.
Herbs and Flowers
Since herbs—whether medicinal or culinary—tend to have tiny little seeds, the best way to collect them is the brown paper bag technique.
Let a couple of plants mature and go to seed. Then, once the seed heads are drying nicely in the sun, pop paper bags over them and tie them securely in place with some twine.
Use scissors or a knife to sever the stem a handspan or so beneath the twine, then hang the bag upside-down in a dry place. As the plant dries within the bag, the seed casings will shrink, releasing the seeds into the bottom of the bag.
After a couple of weeks, shake the bag well to release as many seeds as possible, then cut the bag open and pour the seeds into envelopes.
Keep your seeds in a cool, dry place away from direct light and any form of moisture, and you’ll have a plethora of plants to play with next spring!
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