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How to Harvest Vegetable Seeds

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017

Growing vegetables from seed saves the cost of at least some of your food. And if you save your own seeds, you never have to buy any. Seed saving also helps preserve heirloom vegetable varieties that many seed catalogs no longer carry. You can't save seeds from just plant, though. Avoid hybrids and open pollinated plants such as squash; the seeds won't produce plants true to the parent. Choose heirloom and non-hybrid varieties of peppers, tomatoes and beans to get started as these are usually true to the parent or close enough that the differences are not significant.

Allow the best looking fruit on the healthiest plant to ripen completely. Look for plants that have shown resistance to insects and disease, have full foliage, and consistently produce the largest and best tasting vegetables.

Pick the fruit once it ripens fully but before it begins rotting. Pick peppers once the skin begins to wrinkle and tomatoes before they split open. Pick pod vegetables such as beans and peas once the pod has dried out and the seeds rattle inside.

Split open the vegetable and remove or scoop out the seeds. Place seeds surrounded in gel, such as tomato, in a glass of water for one week or until the seeds settle to the bottom and the gel rises to the top. If the seeds are in pulp, rinse off the pulp.

Lay the seeds on a paper towel in a single layer. Place in a dry area at room temperature to dry out, about one week.

Rub off any remaining dried pulp from the seeds once they are dry. Place in an envelope and seal. Store in a cool, dry place such as a cabinet or refrigerator.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Glass
  • Paper towels
  • Envelopes

Tips

  • Harvest seeds from squash if you only plant one variety and know that your close neighbors aren't growing any squash.
  • Mark your envelopes with the seed variety and year harvested.
  • Use the remaining vegetable matter from peppers and tomatoes in cooked dishes to avoid waste and disguise the slight over-ripeness.
  • Carrots must be allowed to grow unharvested for two summers before they produce seeds the second year.

Warnings

  • Extreme heat or cold may damage seeds. Moisture may cause premature germination or rot.
  • Use seeds the following year; germination rates begin declining in the second year after harvesting.

About the Author

 

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.