Saving seed is a gardening tradition dating back to the days when seed was expensive and difficult to come by. Even in these days of relatively inexpensive seeds, some people prefer to save seeds from their best garden plants to replant the following year. Horticulturalist Gary Hickman, of the University of California Cooperative Extension, emphasizes that the most important considerations when storing seed is protecting seeds from moisture and from high temperature. He says seed that is dry and is protected from moisture can be safely stored in the deep freeze.
Choose to save the seed from your best, most healthy plants. Harvest vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers or squash when ripe. Allow greens such as lettuce to flower and go to seed.
Cut open the vegetable and remove the seeds. Beans and peas can be allowed to dry in the pod, and corn can be dried on the ear. Remove the shuck from the corn. The University of Illinois recommends allowing the seed and pulp vegetables such as squash, tomatoes and other moist vegetables to sit in a jar and ferment for a few days to kill harmful viruses before draining and rinsing the pulp from the seeds.
Spread the seeds on newspaper or a cookie sheet in a cool area out of direct sunlight. Allow to dry for at least a week.
Separate any remaining dried pulp or other plant material from the seed by brushing it away with your hand. Shell the corn and remove beans or peas from the pods.
Place each seed in a sealable plastic bag or envelope. Label the envelope with the date collected and type of seed.
Place the envelopes in a clean, dry canning jar and screw on the jar lid. Store in the freezer in a spot where it won't be disturbed.
Remove the seed from the freezer the day before you plan to plant. This will allow plenty of time for the seed to come to room temperature before planting.