How to Harvest & Dry Seeds

How to Harvest & Dry Seeds

Feb 01, 2022

Saving seeds is a great way to grow your plants year after year with little expense. Some plants grow easily from seed and are true to type. Others are hybrids and produce seedlings that do not resemble the parent plant. Avoid collecting seeds from vegetables that cross-pollinate, such as cucumber, squash, and melon. The seeds from these vegetables may grow into plants that are very different from the parent plant.

You want to save seeds from open-pollinated varieties of vegetables. The seeds from these types will come true, meaning the offspring will share the same characteristics as the parent plant. Heirloom vegetables are open pollinated and are a good choice because they have desirable traits that were selected over many generations. Many tomato, beans, peas and pepper plants are heirloom varieties and are good candidates for seed saving. 

Before you can save the seeds, first let veggies fully ripen and allow plants to bolt. Plants that tend to bolt include lettuce, basil, beets, brassicas, cilantro. spinach, celery, onion, and leek. They may look ugly, but to make seed, they need to stop the growth process, get brown, and shrivel up.

Collect your bunches of plants, seedpods intact, and haul them up to the porch to dry a little further.

Use dehydrator or hang them from the rafters of a dry barn or porch.

If you are working in a smaller space, you can snip off the seedpods (pictured below) and let them dry on a flat screen or a dry glass bowl. The seedpods will pop right open with a little pressure from your thumb when they are "ripe".

When you get to that point, you are ready to separate the seed from the chaff! Crack open the pods into a bowl of water, allowing the seeds to drop to the bottom and the debris to float to the top.

Skim the bits of debris off the top, then pour the seed liquid through a towel-lined colander.

You might have to do this one or two times to separate the seeds. Once the seeds are separated, let them dry a little while longer until they rattle around freely in a glass jar.

The next step?

  • Grind your seeds for powdered spices (mustard, cumin, etc.)
  • Dry them for planting next year
  • Dry them to use in a spice grinder as you cook
  • Add them to pickling liquids, vinegars and flavored oils

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Author Chris Link - Published 1-31-2022