Pioneer farmers saved seeds from year to year. Family members and neighbors traded seeds with each other and carried seeds with them as they moved from one part of the country to another. As hybrids took over a larger share of the market, seed savers preserved heirloom varieties for future generations. You can save seeds from the garden to honor this tradition, enjoy your favorite varieties year after year or merely to save money.
Collect seeds from your strongest, healthiest plants. Choose fully ripened fruits such as tomatoes, eggplant, squash, pumpkin, corn or beans. Cut open the vegetable (except corn, beans or peas), and separate the seeds from the pulp.
Dry seeds completely before you store them. Spread seeds that have pulp, such as tomato, peppers or squash, on newspaper or a cookie sheet, and allow to dry for several days. Stir every day to encourage air circulation.
You can leave corn on the cob and beans and peas in their shells to dry. Spread beans or peas on cookie sheets or newspapers. Hang corn, with the shucks peeled back, from the ceiling in a basement or shed.
Separate the dried seeds from any pulp. Shell corn and remove peas and beans from pods. Discard any damaged or rotted seeds.
Store seeds in paper envelopes. Label each container with the type and variety of seed and the date it was harvested. Store the envelopes in a zippered plastic freezer bag in the back of the refrigerator or in a cool basement or garage.