How do I prepare seeds collected from my garden after harvesting them?


How do I prepare seeds collected from my garden after harvesting them?


The late growing season is a good time to collect seeds from vegetables and flowers.  Seed saving allows gardeners to preserve heirloom varieties or their favorite plants from year to year. Once harvested, the seed will need to be cleaned to be prepared for storage.  Cleaning methods for seeds will vary from species to species depending on whether the seeds are in dry or fleshy fruit.  

Cleaning Seeds in Dry Fruit

Seeds in dry fruit, such as lettuce, radish, grains, beans, peas, and cole crops, are typically dry-processed.  The mature seed can be separated from the chaff in several ways.  Threshing, smashing, and shelling can be used to physically separate the seed from the flower head, husk, or pod.  Screening with colanders, sieves, or other screen materials can also be used to separate seed from chaff.  Winnowing separates heavier seed from lightweight chaff by using a fan to blow away the chaff.  Seed lots are often screened or winnowed several times to remove as much chaff as possible. 

Cleaning Seeds in Fleshy Fruit

Seeds in fleshy-fruit, such as tomato, pepper, squash, and melons are typically wet-processed.  The fruit is cut open and seeds removed.  Place seeds in a large bowl, add water, and agitate to sperate pulp from the seeds.  Plant debris, pulp, and nonviable seeds will float to the surface and can be decanted off the top.  Repeat the process until the water is fairly clear.  Some species, like squash, benefit from soaking for a few hours to loosen the pulp clinging to the seeds.  Other species, like tomato, may need to be fermented to breakdown and loosen the gelatinous covering around the seed.   The seeds can then be rinsed utilizing running water and a colander or screen.  When completely clean, it is important to dry the seeds as quickly as possible.  Spread seeds over screens, coffee filters, sheet pans, or plywood and provide good airflow.  Do not dry seeds on paper or cardboard as they will stick and avoid drying in high temperatures (over 95°F) and direct sunlight.  Once seeds are fully clean and dry, they can be stored.

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