Joined: Jul 23, 2006
Location: Central New York
I got some peppers and tomatos from my local farmer's market which taste way better than anything you can get in the store. After I cooked with them I saved their insides in a paper towel, but I want to plant them next spring. How should I go about saving the seeds?
If you saved the seeds from the cooking process, you could plant them next year and you will probably get nice plants - but the fruit might not be the same. Most fruit sold is the result of careful plant breeding.
Joined: Jul 23, 2006
Location: Central New York
I mean cooked the tasty stuff after taking the seeds out. Pepper seeds are spicy and tomato seeds are sour. I had them in a paper towel. Today a guy at work told me to put them in a cup of water for a couple days and then dry them out and freeze them for a couple days. The water removes the bad seeds and crud around them and the freezing kills some bacteria.
I heard that tomato plant varieties should be at least ten feet apart to ensure that the seeds are "pure"? I didn't quite understand the reasons and the odds of crosspollination or some such thing. This was if you intended to harvest seeds.
Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Location: Western WA
Seed Saving Basics
If you want to save seed, there are a few basics. The very first rule is that the plants have to be Open-Pollinated (designated OP in the catalogs). Hybrids are a mix of all kinds of ancestors, and won’t breed true, almost always reverting back to a less desirable parent.
If you have no intention of saving the seed of certain kinds of vegetables, it doesn’t matter how many kinds or varieties you plant, or how close you plant them. Cross-pollination only affects the next generation, not the fruit or root you’ll be eating.
Some crops cross-pollinate more easily than others. In a small garden, the easiest way to ensure purity is to grow not more than one variety of any species at a time, and hope a nearby neighbor isn’t, either. Next best is growing them as far apart as you can, or planting other kinds of plants between them.
A good seed catalog can provide a lot of information (Territorial Seed has a good one.) You’re mostly interested in the Genus, Species and Variety. For a cabbage, the Genus is Brassica, the Species is oleracea, and one variety is ‘Savoy Perfection’ (single quotes): Brassica oleracea ‘Savoy Perfection’. If the first two names of one kind are the same as another (Brassica oleracea), the plants may cross. If they are different, they are not likely to cross.
Corn is the only vegetable (it’s really a grass) where cross-pollination affects the first crop (the silk is the closest thing to its flower, the tassels provide the pollen, and the corn kernels are the seeds). If your sweet corn is cross-pollinated by field corn or popcorn upwind, the blandness of the corn you’re eating ten days later will be noticeable, and the saved seed would be inferior also.
Squashes, Pumpkins & Gourds consist of five different species. They will cross within the same species, but won’t usually cross between the species in nature. So, if you wanted to grow one variety of each species, you should be able to grow them all in one yard and still get pure seed.
* Cucurbita pepo: Pumpkins, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, yellow crookneck summer squash, scallop/patty pan squash, delicates, vegetable gourds, and small, hardshell gourds (yellow-flowered). * Cucurbita moschata: Butternut squash, Long Island cheese squashes, Dickinson and Kentucky field pumpkins, Seminole pumpkin, Neck pumpkin, Calabaza. * Cucurbita maxima: Buttercup squash, Banana squash, Hubbard squash, Kabocha squash, Lakota squash, Arikara squash. * Cucurbita mixta: Green-striped Cushaw (aka Kershaw) * Cucurbita ficifolia: Shark-fin melon (Note: none of the squashes will cross with the white-flowered hardshell gourds))
All of the Brassica oleracea (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts) will cross with each other, but not all the others in the family will. Check the species name (the one following ‘Brassica’), if any are the same they may cross, but if they’re different, they won’t. Weeds with the same species name can cross with the domestic one.
Melons will cross with each other, but nothing else. Ditto for cucumbers.
Beans and peas drop their pollen and self-pollinate the evening before the flowers open, so the pollen is not very available to pollinating insects. Two feet between bush types is usually enough if you’re not selling the seed or keeping heirlooms pure. Pole types are a bit more promiscuous, and should be separated by more space, by different types of plants, or adjacent varieties should be very different so you will see a hybrid the following year and yank it before it flowers..
Lettuce is generally self-pollinating, but if you want to keep the strains separate, you’d best plant them 12-25 ft apart, or grow different vegetables between them. But keep its ancestor, the weed called prickly lettuce from flowering, or it could cross with your domestic lettuce.
Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers don’t cross among themselves, and are self-pollinating, but if you plant different varieties at least ten feet apart, there shouldn’t be any crossing.
Carrots will cross with each other and the wild weed called Queen Anne’s Lace, which is a carrot ancestor, if they are within 1000 feet of each other. The weed crosses are easy enough to weed out when you harvest the roots: they’re thin, white and tough.
1) Mark a couple fruits from several plants (12 is not too many, the more separate plant sources, the better and healthier the diversity of genes). Colored surveyor's tape is good. Warn your family not to pick any of the marked fruits.
2) Let the marked fruits mature. Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers (etc) will be past their prime and softening. Leave winter squashes on the vine either until the vines wither or a serious frost threatens.
3) Fruits with seeds trapped inside are obviously easier to collect than those that are released from small pods. Collect tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squashes, melons, gourds, okra and tomatillos when they are very mature. Immature seeds won’t sprout, ever. Cut them open and collect the seeds. Some will be dark (like watermelon) and some will be very light or white (cucumbers, melons). The easiest way to dry them so they don’t rot or mold is to put them in open containers or paper bags with their species and varieties written on them. Shake them and stir them up every day, so they dry evenly.
Tomatoes are a little different, as they have a coating that prevents sprouting, and you’ll have to remove it by fermentation (and it helps kill any bacteria, too). Squeeze the seeds out of the tomato or scrape them out with a spoon into a quart jar. Add just as much water as you have seed pulp and stir. Put the jar in a place where you won’t notice the unpleasant smell for three days. Don’t worry about the mold that forms, it’s part of the process. On the third day, scrape off the mold and stir the rest of the contents. Spoon or pour off all the yucky stuff on the top, including any floating seeds (they’re no good if they float), and save the seeds that are sitting on the bottom of the jar. After you’ve poured out most of the junk, add more water to the bottom seeds and stir again. Pour off anything that floats. Repeat until all you have in the jar is clear water and seeds sitting on the bottom. Pour through a strainer, and then dump the seeds onto a glass plate or cake pan and stir a couple of times a day to help them dry. Some people spread them out on paper towels instead, and let them stick to the towel as it dries out. When they are thoroughly dry, they just roll or fold the paper towel and put it in a labeled paper envelope for storage, and tear them apart when they plant them next year. Otherwise, keep stirring them around on the plate until they’re dry and mostly separated.
3) Smaller seeds like parsley, carrots and dill will need to be watched carefully, and harvested when they are fairly dry. If you think you might forget and they’ll fall to the ground, you can make simple cloth (polyester organdy or similar fabric allows air in and dries quickly after rain or watering) drawstring bags to put over the seed heads as they are maturing, pull the string snugly around the base of the flower and tie in a bow. When they’re dry and crisp, just cut the heads off the stems with the bags still on, and collect them in a large bowl. Remove the bags and tap out the loose seeds when you’re out of the wind. Be sure to mark the kind and variety of seeds that they are.
4) Let pea pods and beans dry on the vine. Then collect them on a dry day into an open container and let them dry even more out of the weather. Remove from the pods when they are dry and crisp, and store in marked paper bags.
5) Some seeds are at the base of the dried flowers, like sunflowers, artichoke and cardoon. Cut the dry heads off and rub or pull the dry center of the flowers off. The seeds are embedded in the base of the flower. Remove and dry.
6) Seeds must be carefully stored to retain their viability. Store them in marked paper bags or envelopes, which will allow them to dry out more if they need it. Plastic bags contribute to molding and rot if they aren’t dry enough. Keep cool and dry. Heat and moisture will decrease their viability considerably. Some people store their seeds in a freezer, but if the seeds are too moist, it will kill the embryo. A refrigerator is a better place, or a cool basement.
7) Carrots, cabbage, parsnips, leeks, onions, celery, beets, turnips, kohlrabi and salsify are biennials. They produce their crop one year and their seeds the next spring, and then they die. Here is some info for cold climates, as you will have to make some effort to keep them alive through the winter for them to flower the next year: http://www.cog.ca/documents/Savingseedsofbiennialvegetables.pdf Most of these have umbel-type flowers, and cloth bags may be the easiest way to collect the largest amount of seeds. If you try to harvest them when they are green, they will not be viable and won’t sprout.
excellent post sue this year I am making an extra effort to grow open pollinated varieties. I picked up a few that are questionable, memory served me well on most when I was buying them and I only have a few that I am not sure about.
so far have...
acorn squash 'table queen' hubbard squash 'golden hubbard' summer squash 'early prolific straightneck' canteloupe 'hales best' beans 'pencil pod black wax bean' 've never grown this variety before but it is supposed to be a bit less prolific but more heat tolerant. I usually grow cherokee wax I need to find out if it is op too. maybe I will get some just in case the pencil pod is a dudd. but I need to find out if I could save seed from it.
sugar snap peas (these I am not sure if they are open pollinated as so far I haven't been able to find the info, it would be great if they were, I grow them everyyear it is my favorite treat! as long as they are available I will grow them either way!)
beans 'kentucky wonder 125' I couldn't find any kentucky wonders without the # after and I am not sure if they are op but I doubt it. I think I got them mixed up with bluelakes that are op...I think.....need to do more bean research....
sue do you know?
need to get some paste tomatoes especially that are op
I always grow 'sweet 100's' and 'beef masters' although they probably aren't op. I need to find some similiar ones that are op so that I know i can keep them coming everyyear without depending on seed companies.
OP Cherry tomatoes: Matt's Wild Cherry - heirloom Red Current (very small fruits) - heirloom Tiny Tim - heirloom Blondkopfchen (yellow) -heirloom
None of these lists are complete.
Joined: Jun 26, 2008
sue you are awsome!!!thank you. so my cherokee wax and snap peas are an old variety/op!!! yeah! I will be tracking down some cherokees now for sure becuase those things are incredible production wise. I was afraid the kentucky wonder numbers meant it was some kind of a million hybrid varieties. I see romas are op too! those always do well for me to so I will stick with them. now for some large tomato and cherry tomato. thanks for the start on those I will be able to look into them a bit and find one that looks like what Iwant. I am picky about my cherry tomatoes, I like them to be small not like the 'salad' tomatoes but more of 'grape tomato'. thanks again!
Awesome info! I planned on saving my seeds this year and wasn't entirely sure about what can be saved and how. Great to know about biennials. I can add to the list of tomatoes: Orange Oxheart, Old German, and Koralik (cherry); all heirloom tomatoes. Also Principe Borghese, non-heirloom sauce, and Mexican Strain Tomatillo. All of which I'm growing this year. Turns out a good chunk of the seeds I've purchased are OP. If only I'd known this when I ordered, I'd have made some different choices.
"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller -- Jeremiah Bailey Central Indiana
If we have a BEST POSTS section, Sue's posts needs to be in there, and I could sure use a link to help me find it. If we don't have one, can the admins set it up in a locked fashion? A link can be added to the original post and thread for discussion. As the forum grows, outstanding posts such as this can get lost in the weeds.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
Joined: Nov 05, 2009
Location: eastern washington
Leah Sattler wrote:......I always grow 'sweet 100's' and 'beef masters' although they probably aren't op. I need to find some similiar ones that are op so that I know i can keep them coming everyyear without depending on seed companies.
leah, i always have to grow the hybrid Sweet 100 for market cause it's so well liked, but this year i found an 'open pollinated' version i'll be trying out. i found it here at Mapple Farm...
SWEET 100 OP*-- ”OP” stands for Open Pollinated to avoid confusion with the once popular hybrid version of this plant. This very large, productive indeterminate bears 1” (2.5 cm) round, red fruits. Its enjoyable sweet- acid balance seems to fit what many consider the standard for a cherry tomato--of that comfortable “what I grew up with” quality.
Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
If the product is listed as a "Hybrid", or has "F-1" after its name, you do not want to save seed from it (unless you are trying to dehybridize it, which is a whole new thread).
Try to find varieties that are listed as "OP" (Open Pollinated). Not all vendors mark them as such. If in doubt, just ask. As stated above, "Organic" could also be hybrid, although there are probably not many organic hybrid varieties (yet). That however may change now that all of the "Big Boys" are trying to cash in on the organic band wagon.
paul wheaton wrote: If you have a cherry tomato plant next to a paste tomato plant, and then you save the seeds and plant them next year, you could get all sorts of interesting kinds of tomato plants!
I find tomatoes really don't cross much, even when grown in close proximity. I have variety I've saved for 7 or 8 years now and it has always grown alongside other very different varieties. This still grows true to type......
From what I understand if you want a cross bred tom you need to be proactive and make it cross.....
Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
Tomato plants have what is called a "perfect" flower, which basically means that each flower has both the male/female parts. So, normally each flower self pollinates. However, they can cross pollinate, especially if there is a lot of insect activity when the flowers are ready. I have read that cross pollination seldom exceeds 5%. If you do get a cross, so what? Unless it was your only plant, you may like the cross better than either of the originals. If that is the case, save as many of those seeds as you can, and try to stabilize the breed.
if you have a favorite tomato and want it again next year, whether hybrid of OP, save some suckers in the fall. I put them in water in sunny window to root and in the spring pot them up for about a month before setting them out. I have some plants going on 4 years now.
Joined: May 23, 2011
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
I'm in the middle of listening to the seed saving podcast and heard that someone has seed saving questions. It appears here that there are already lots of answers. If anyone still has questions and wants to e-mail me I would be glad to help.
I am by no means an expert but I do believe that seed saving is a big part of how I want to practice permaculture. By not having to purchase seeds every year we become more self sustaining and also, according to a local organic farmer, the plant begins to acclimate to the local area and becomes hardier to that particular climate. He has been pretty successful so I tend to believe him. His first question when he helps new farmers get started is "do you have REAL seed?" And by that he means seed from plants grown in your area.
Wow! When I asked my question concerning seed saving I was certainly too stupid to think to ask about all the important information that Susan has already shared in her post. Thanks for all the useful information.
In my naivete my question really was something like: Are there any important considerations I should be thinking about when I choose which plant's seeds to save? Like which qualities are going to better serve that kind of plant when I try to grow it again next year?