CLEVELAND, Ohio – The days are getting shorter, the hardy hibiscuses are blooming and the first leaves are changing color signal the beginning of the end of another glorious northeast Ohio summer.
Your vegetable garden may produce more food than you can eat at this time of year, and canning, drying, and freezing can be quite time-consuming and complicated processes for the first time (though worth it). the penalty). For those of us who don’t have the time, patience, or counter space for home keeping, an easier way to keep the tastes and colors of summer that’s also essentially free , is to save seeds to plant next year.
For best results, seeds should come from open-pollinated fruits and vegetables, also known as “heirloom” varieties. This means that the plant that grows from the seed will have the same qualities as the plant from which it grew. Hybrid and grafted plants combine characteristics of several parent plants to improve qualities such as pest resistance, plant strength and color, but the seeds they produce will not necessarily be “true” to the parent plant. This is one of the reasons why saving seeds from groceries is generally not recommended by experts. (The other is that it’s technically illegal if the grower has patented the seed.)
Many types of vegetables and fruits produce lots of seeds per plant, which is nature’s way of ensuring that at least a few seeds will get the right combination of location, environment, and weather to produce new ones. plants. However, to have a better chance of success, there are a few steps you can take to harvest and store the seeds.
The first and most important part of the process is to completely remove the pulp or gel around the seeds so that they can be completely dried before storage. I’ll use tomatoes as an example, but this method would work for any pulpy fruit or vegetable.
1. Choose a healthy, mature specimen or two plants that you really want to grow again. There’s no need to waste time and energy saving vegetable seeds that you don’t like or haven’t grown well.
2. Label a small bowl with the name of the plant. I use masking tape and a sharpie.
3. Cut the tomato in half and dump the pulp and seeds into the bowl.
4. Place the bowl in a location that does not receive direct sunlight. Don’t worry if there is a layer of scum on top. Set a reminder on an electronic device to come back in 4-5 days (or write the date on your label).
5. Four or five days later, skim the scum off the top, add more water and stir the seeds thoroughly.
6. The “good” seeds sink to the bottom of the bowl, so this step helps you separate and wash away the healthier seeds. Pour the water over the top, which will drag the floating pulp with it. Repeat adding water, gently stirring and pouring until the seeds are clean.
7. Drain as much water as possible from the bowl, then spread the seeds out to dry. I use a piece of screen on a paper plate, which works great to wick away moisture and allow them to dry. (I also transfer my seed label from the bowl to the paper plate.) Some people use paper towels – the seeds will stick to them and form “seed paper.”
After the seeds have dried for several days, the next step is storage in a cool, dark, and dry environment. Commercial seed growers use paper seed packets, and so should you. Although it’s tempting to use plastic bags, they don’t provide a dark, dry environment. I reuse empty seed packets and also use regular paper mailing envelopes. (This is a great use for orphan envelopes from stationery and invitations.) Label the envelope with the type of seed and the year and store it in a cool, dark, dry place, such as a basement. , a shed or a laundry room.
Reader Dave from Avon Lake shared an unusual but effective way to store cucumber seeds with little effort: In the fall, place a ripe cucumber or two in a dry corner or toss them under leaves in the garden (and remember where they are). In April, crack open the shriveled old dried cucumber and there will be plenty of good seeds!
For more seed saving tips, the Cleveland Seed Bank is hosting seed saving classes at area libraries on the evenings of August 25 (Willoughby-Eastlake), August 29 (Noble Branch of Heights Libraries) and September 12 (Rocky River). Contact the individual library to reserve a place.
Find all the gardening chronicles of Susan Brownstein here.