This is a handout I gave at a presentation to Ladies Homestead Gathering about Seed Saving on July 29, 2019, and below it the Power Point delivered at that event. I’m sharing it in the hope that more people will take the time to save the seeds of their non-hybrid, non-GMO, garden seeds. We have lost 90% of the edible plants on this planet in the last 100 years or so, and by loosing this bio-diversity of food genome resource, we put ourselves at risk. You are welcome to copy any part of it. Enjoy.
The only kinds of seeds that breed true season after season are Heirloom, Heritage or Open Pollinated ones. Not hybrids or Genetically engineered. GE seeds are mostly for big farm operations, but Hybrids are common when buying seeds but they can’t be saved as they do not breed true. Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange and other reputable heirloom seed companies sell these, or exchange with friends or seed swaps (but be sure they are H, H, & OP (as above)).
Seeds come in all sizes and shapes, and depending on whether they are inside a fruit, on the end of a grass or other stem after flowering, they have different methods of offering their seeds. Below are the most common. Other information can be found online. Save seeds from fruits at their peak, or non-fruit – after the flowering stage has created seeds which are dry or mostly dry on the plant. If you harvest them too green, the seed will not have developed enough to reproduce (fruit or non-fruit – they must be mature). Save only very dry seeds, as if they are the least bit moist, they will mold or rot and not work. Package seeds in paper, glassine or glass, not directly touching plastic if possible, as this can condense moisture and rot the seed especially in a refrigerator. Store them in cool, dark, dry space or in the refrigerator in water proof containers (like a ziplock outer, paper inner envelope), or in the freezer in freezer proof containers, with air removed as much as possible.
Always label seeds before harvesting. Keep the label with the seed at all times.
Label: family, species (cultivar), year, if organic, if heirloom, location of harvest (like ‘my farm’)
Each family of plant such as Nightshade (tomatoes), Brassicus (cabbage), Curcurbit (gourd and pumpkin), and other families each ripen and make their seeds available in different ways. Taking the seed from the fruit such as tomato is done when the fruit is at the height of its ripeness. With squash, cucumber or pumpkin the seeds must fully form and are usually harvested when it has turned yellow and is beyond being eaten. Usually the fruit of a plant has seeds within it and that seed is removed from the pulp of the fruit and cleaned, then dried and stored. When the plant sends up a stalk with flowers and produces seed pods (brassicus) or clusters of seeds (beet/chard), or small seed pods with fluffy heads (lettuce, grasses).
Brassicus (cabbage family) seeds create huge masses of narrow seed pods at the top of the stem of the plant that dry looking like paper pointy envelopes. These are allowed to dry on the stems but must becaptured before they start to split and disseminate on their own.
Grasses (not including corn but most grains) send up shoots with the seeds attached by tiny side stems and can be immediately separated from the stalk and dried. Corn is harvested when the corn silk becomes brownish and dry looking and the husk is dry. It can be left
on the stalk until fall or removed, de-husked, and left to dry inside (garage on old screens works great) with good ventilation. When the kernels are hard, they are removed by hand or a removing device, and kept in a dry container, paper bag, or mason jar – but ensure they are completely dry. The cob can be kept in a basket for even years before removing kernels just as long as they are protected from pests.
Lettuces after flowering create little covered packets of seeds with a fluffy head which tells you the seed
is mature enough to harvest. These pods are allowed to dry completely, then gently rubbed to let the seeds fall out.
A tip is to harvest the stalks with pods or fluffy headed packets and place them in a paper grocery bag to allow to dry to keep the seeds from
escapingAnother way is to put the large bunches of seeded stems into finely meshed bags such as netting filters used for paint, and hung in a
dry well ventilated space.
Tomatoes must be cut open, the gelatinous seeds squeezed out into a glass, a little water added, covered with a piece of paper towel secured
with a rubber band, labeled and allowed to mold for a few days. When the mold is a white covering, pour into a close, fine strainer, and
gently under running water, with the fingers, work off the coating, leaving the light tan seeds. These get put onto a paper towel labeled and
allowed to air dry for a few days, then pulled off and saved in a glassine labeled envelope.
Peppers are opened and the seeds pulled off the inside membrane onto a paper towel, labeled and allowed to air dry, then saved as the tomato
Beets (incl. Chards) form clusters of round seeds along an upright stalk. These are allowed to dry on the plant until they look almost papery,
then gently hand removed from the stem, allowed to further dry, labeled and into an envelope.
Beans (or peas) are allowed to dry on the vine until they look papery and are crispy feeling and have visibly protruding seeds inside, or are
harvested when the bean fills out with a seed, removed and dried.
Then the bean pod is opened and the seed is brushed out, thoroughly dried and saved in a paper bag or
glass jar with a moisture absorbing packet.
Radish (or Arugula), like Brassicus, form pods but shaped fatter and have less seeds per pod. Saved
same as Brassicus.
Parsley, carrot family form ‘umbels’ like an umbrella flower. The flowers fade and the umbel closes up
and looks brown and dry. When they are obviously well dried on the plant, they are cut off, and the seeds
are rubbed off into a bowl, saved in glassine.
Flowers such as calendula form round clusters of seeds when the petals dry out. These are cut off, dried, separating the seeds and kept in glassine. Other flowers such as Echinacea form spiky balls that turn black. Ensuring them being dry, they can be broken up and seeds removed. Some flowering plants such as milkweed form pods which have rows of seeds attached to silky fluff. They open when they start to ripen and as the pod opens and the fluff drys and expands, the fluff carries the seed with the wind. Cut off the pod once it peels open, and let it dry in a paper bag or fine mesh bag. The fluff of milkweed can remain on the seeds or removed for other uses.
Herbs that flower are treated as ‘flowers’ above.
Diann Dirks 7-19 for LHG Statham
Power Point presentation:
1 WHY SAVE SEEDS?
– Increase your self reliance and sustainability. <
– Keep rare plants alive through time. <
– Bio-Diversity <
Learn patience and connect with the earth. <
2 WHY BIODIVERSITY?
– We have lost 90% of the edible plant genomes available 100 years ago. <
– Diversity of nutrients <
– Varieties of color and look for cooking and culinary presentation. <
– Varieties of available foods for those sensitive and with food allergies. <
3 WHICH ONES TO SAVE.
– Best of a crop to improve the species. <
– Ones least affected by bug damage, wilt, drought or other environmental challenges. <
– Only Heirloom, Heritage or Open Pollinated ones. Not hybrids or Genetically engineered. <
(Show photos of hybrid vs not; both examples of titled and numbered)
4 HOW LONG DO SAVED SEEDS LAST AND HOW TO PRESERVE THEM?
– Depending on the species and how well they are kept, 1 to 8 years. <
– Seeds must be thoroughly dry and kept out of the heat or dampness <
– Seed Banks keep their seeds in subzero freezers for many years, or refrigerated in
special moisture protected containers. <
- Containers for seeds can be paper envelopes, or glass jars <
(expiration recommendation photo)
5 HARVESTING SEEDS.
– ALWAYS LABEL SEEDS BEFORE HARVESTING. KEEP THE LABEL WITH THE SEED AT ALL TIMES
– Seeds are saved at the end of their growing cycle and when they are at their peak. Each kind of seed has a different way of processing it, but generally you take the seed when the plant has finished flowering and has a mature seed created.
6 HOW TO PROCESS SEEDS.
– As described, seeds are gathered with labels and allowed to dry. If it’s a large amount of stems put them in grocery paper bags and write on the outside for ease of processing. <
– Once dry, separate the seeds and put in containers well labeled. <
Wet: Seeds processed from wet fruit need to separate pulp from seeds then dried.
Can use paper towel over Styrofoam trays to dry them.
Dry: Seeds from non-fruit are gathered with labels and allowed to dry. If it’s a large amount of stems put them in grocery paper bags and write on the outside for ease of processing. <
There will be debris left over after separating the seed from the dried plant matter. This process is called GARBLING – the final step of plant use after harvesting where the best bits are sorted out and the rest is disposed of.
Work over a large bowl (usually stainless steel) when garbling or processing dried seeds.
Once garbling is complete, remaining dry debris needs to be winnowed leaving only seeds.
7 HOW TO LABEL SEEDS ONCE PROCESSED
– Labeling is vital at all stages of seed saving because many seeds look identical but contain very different plants at the end. So, keep the original labels of types and transfer that to any containers. For yourself, merely the cultivar name and date. For more elaborate uses such as sales, you need to do like a professional seed packet does. (Picture ATTAINED)
8 USES FOR SAVED SEEDS
Long term survival
If you are in the NE Georgia area or nearby in North Carolina or South Carolina, this presentation can be delivered in person. PM me on FB or email me at email@example.com