The most viable seeds for collection will come from ripe fruits and vegetables, although the seeds must be collected while the fruit is still on the vine. Seeds must be mature to survive storage and to germinate and produce strong seedlings when planted in the future.
If the seeds are coming from fleshy fruits such as an eggplant or cucumber, the fruit should be slightly overripe. The seeds should be removed from the fruit and the fruit flesh cleaned off the seed.
Tomatoes are a little trickier because they are a fleshy fruit, but the seeds are covered by a membrane that will inhibit germination. To clean tomato seeds, put the pulp in a jar and cover with water. After several days the good seeds will have gone to the bottom of the fermented matter. Strain off the bad seeds and water, keeping the good seeds.
Plants with edible seeds like corn will remain mature for many weeks after harvesting the fruit. These seeds may be left on the plant for several weeks or until you have time to collect the seeds. It’s important to remember that seeds left outside on plants may be harvested by birds or other hungry critters.
For seeds from plants that “shatter” when the seeds are fully ripe, it’s best to tie a small paper bag punched with a few air holes around the fruit or seed pod. Shattering seed pods mature over an extended period of time, so it’s easiest to collect the seeds with the help of a bag.
All seed collecting should be done on a dry, sunny day, if possible at a time when the seeds are also dry. Harvesting seeds after a frost can also damage the seeds.
Seeds should be collected into small jars, envelopes or bags to keep the seeds separate during the collection process.
The drying process is very important for all seeds. Most seeds will require a week of drying prior to storage. Most seeds can be spread on newspaper or paper towels and left in a dry, well-ventilated location. If the seeds were damp when spread out, the newspaper or towels may need to be changed.
Remember that a seed is actually a dormant plant, and in storage, the gardener needs to find the optimal storage to keep the plant from expending its life. Heat will cause a seed to want to grow. Moisture is also a major enemy of stored seeds.
It’s best to keep seeds in moisture free containers like glass or metal jars with lids in a dark and cool or cold location. If a large, moisture free container is available all collected and labeled seeds can be stored together in individual envelopes or containers inside the larger container.
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