How to collect and save vegetable seeds for next year

Many of the vegetables we grow in our gardens produce seeds, which can become plants if harvested and stored properly.

Late summer is the perfect time to start collecting them, reports Associated Press gardening expert Jessica Damiano. She warns from the start about the importance of the fruit you choose for the seeds.

Make sure the seeds come from heirloom plants or open pollinated, sorts. They are plants in their original shapes. Their seeds will produce plants with the same qualities as their parents.

Hybrid the plants generally produce the vegetables sold in large grocery stores. They are created by reproduction two or more different plant types to capture the best qualities of each. Trying to grow seeds from hybrids will not lead to a happy harvest, however.

The resulting plants will not have the expected qualities but will carry the genes of only one of its parents. And, it is impossible to identify which parent it will be. For this reason, it is best not to grow seeds from store-bought food.

Many plants cross-pollinate in the garden. Pollinators, other insects, animals and the wind carry pollen from plant to plant. To ensure that the seeds you collect will grow into plants that match their parents, give them space! Place different types of the same crop as far apart as possible when planting a vegetable garden.

To avoid cross-pollination surprises, plant only one type of each vegetable from which to harvest seeds. If you want to save tomato seeds, for example, grow only one type of tomato in your garden.

If that seems too limited, go ahead and experiment. Choose old plants to reduce the risk of cross-pollination. The plants will be fine even if they are not what you expected.

Store the seeds in a cool, dry place in a covered glass jar or paper envelope, away from ripening fruit. Temporarily adding a drying element to the jar will remove any remaining moisture. But remove it after a few days to avoid over-drying.

Here’s how to collect and save the seeds of some common local crops.

Salad

At the end of the growing season, lettuce plants will sprout a flower that will develop seed heads. The process is called bolting and the seed heads are called a puff.

When the puff is dry, remove the stem. Put the puff in a paper bag, close the bag and shake. The seeds will detach from the flower and fall to the bottom of the bag.

Basil

Basil seeds are tiny, so separating them from the tiny flower is a slow and careful process. When the plants get carried away at the end of the season, let the flowers stay until they vanish totally. Cut them up and place them in a sieve. Then use your fingers to push them against the bottom of the sieve.

Beets and carrots

Beet and carrot plants produce seeds only in the second year, after a period of cold storage. In areas with cold winters, simply leave the plants in the ground over winter.

In hot climates, it is necessary to create “winter” inside: At the end of the first season, prune the plants to 5 centimeters. Carefully dig up the roots and store them in a fridge or other cool place. Replant them outdoors the following spring.

When the leaves of second-year beet plants turn brown, remove the seed hunt down from the top of the plant and place it in a paper bag. Store in a cool, dry place for at least two weeks, then shake the bag well to separate the seeds. Pour them into a plate and blow on them to separate the ball.

Let the second-year carrot flowers dry on the plant, cut them off, and dry them further in a paper bag for a week or two. Then treat them the same way as beets.

peppers

Choose the most beautiful pepper from your healthiest plant and let it stay on the plant until it is overripe and wrinkled. Cut it in half and remove the seeds. Discard anything discolored or otherwise unwanted. Spread the seeds in one level on thick paper and let them dry in a warm place. Do not put them in direct sunlight. Shake the seeds occasionally to ensure even drying. The process should take about a week.

Eggplant

Allow an eggplant to overripe on the plant until it becomes hard and wrinkled, and loses its shine and color. Cut it, remove its seeds and place them in a bowl of water. Stir the water to wash away anything that might stick to it. Then use a cloth to gently dry the seeds. Leave the seeds on a piece of cloth, shaking them a little every day, until they are completely dry. This may take several weeks.

Green beans

Green beans can produce a lot during the season. To get seeds, let grow pods on a plant until they are completely dry and brown. Then, cut the pods off the plant and place them in a cool, dark place to dry out further. Later, remove the seeds and spread them on a cloth. Leave them to harden for a few days.

I am Dorothy Gundy. And I’m Caty Weaver.

Jessica Damiano wrote this story for The Associated Press. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English.

Quiz – How to collect and save vegetable seeds for next year

Quiz - How to collect and save vegetable seeds for next year

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words in this story

open pollinated –adj. a plant pollinated naturally by birds, insects, wind

original –adj. existing from the beginning

hybrid –adj. offspring from parents who are not alike

raise -v. keeping animals or plants for the purpose of producing more of a particular type

stem -not. the long, slender part of a plant that supports leaves and flowers

vanish -v. weaken and slowly lose strength and freshness

sieve -not. a device used in cooking that separates small particles through a series of small holes

fridge -not. an electrical appliance that keeps food cool

hunt down -not. the thick stem of a plant that grows from the ground

ball -not. plant seed husks that are not eaten but discarded

wrinkled –adj. a small line or crease on a surface such as skin, cloth, or tissue

pod -not. a long, thin part of a plant with seeds inside

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