I was cutting open a butternut squash for dinner today and as I put the seeds and rind in my trash bowl I thought to myself, “Why don’t I save these?” It’s just a butternut squash I bought on sale one day at the grocery store, intending to eat and forget. However, this gardening series and the success my surprise garlic plant is having has really opened my eyes to all the potential my food has but I’ve been wasting. Why should I buy butternut squash over and over again at the store when I can buy it once, plant it, and save the seeds every year to always have my own supply? $.99 per lb. could be all I would ever have to pay for years of squash!
Seed saving is relatively easy and only costs the initial price of your vegetables. Hey, you’re going to eat those veggies anyway, why not save the seeds and plant them this year, next year, or some seeds can even last between 6-40 years!! There are a variety of ways to save seeds depending on the plant but for this post I want to focus on plants that bear their seeds inside the fruit. For a more in depth look at seed saving check out this article.
For many fruits and vegetables all that is necessary to save seeds is to remove them from the fruit and leave them out to dry. Once dry you can put them in a labeled envelope or dry container to save for when you are ready to plant. Plants whose seeds are attached to membrane or pulp, like pumpkins or squash need to be washed and fermented before drying and storing. For example, I scooped out the seeds of my butternut squash and rinsed away as much pulp from them as I could. Now they are sitting in a mason jar of cold water. Tomorrow I will scoop off any seeds and pulp that are floating on the top because that means they are hollow and won’t germinate. Then I’ll rinse the seeds on the bottom of the jar and leave them out to dry on a paper towel or newspaper for a few days before storing them in a washed baby food jar. (We’ve been buying Autumn Beech Nut baby food which comes in these great little glass jars that I am saving to repurpose as seed banks.)
I have a pantry along the stairwell to our basement which is always just above frigid and is the perfect place to ferment and store my seeds. I poked my head in a minute ago and was very happy to see quite a number of seeds have fallen to the bottom. 🙂
Using a few vegetables that the first time gardener might plant, here are a few methods for harvesting and saving seeds:
Cucumbers & Tomatoes
1. Squeeze or spoon the seeds and pulp into a container like a mason jar.
2. Cover the seeds with water and swirl with a spoon. Put on lid and place in a dry, cool area out of direct sunlight.
3. Swirl the seeds daily for 2-3 days and you will see that the pulp and bad seeds have floated to the top. Skim those off and throw away.
4. Drain water and retrieve good seeds. Place on a newspaper or paper towel for a few days to dry. Flip them every day until dry. If the paper gets very wet then replace it.
5. Put seeds in an envelope or glass jar with date and label.
1. Cut pepper open and brush the seeds out of it.
2. Place on newspaper or plate to dry out for a few days and store in an envelope or mason jar.
For more information about how to save seeds for specific plants, check out this article.