Today I want to share some of my recent seed saving activities, though this is in no way meant to be a tutorial on seed saving. Some of my saved pepper and tomato seed is getting old, and I need to replenish my supplies while I still have viable seed. Since peppers can easily cross due to insects or even wind activity, I have taken various measures to prevent that from happening. I’m growing many of the peppers in containers, and I have situated them together and covered the plants with a micromesh material to keep out insects. I’m using both the Micromesh and Enviromesh materials for this purpose. I also have a few of the pepper plants for seed growing in ground, and I have covered them with the fabric as well.
I kept a couple of the pots inside the closed greenhouse when they started blooming, and I brought another one inside to isolate it. The Thai Bird pepper plant is loaded with little hot peppers. I wear vinyl gloves when processing the hot peppers to avoid burning my hands or other body parts I might touch with my hands. I only harvest ripe, unblemished peppers for seed, and use a knife to open up the pepper and get at the seeds inside. For sweet peppers I don’t wear the gloves, but I do select only the best ripe fruits from healthy plants.
The seeds need to be dried somewhere out of direct sunlight, until they break when folded instead of bending. Once dry I store the seeds in plastic ziploc bags and keep in a cool dry place. Storing the seeds in airtight glass containers will improve the keeping qualities of the seeds, and refrigerating will help them last even longer. For a good reference book I highly recommend reading Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth. The book contains a wealth of information for saving all kinds of vegetable seeds, plus a few herbs like basil and parsley. I am letting the pepper seeds dry in little plastic containers, and I have labeled them to make sure I know what is inside.
I also saved seeds from an open-pollinated tomato I’m growing this year called Amy’s Apricot. So far it is the best tasting and most productive of several o/p tomatoes I am trialing this year. It’s not entirely necessary, but I take the extra step of fermenting the tomato seed before I dry it and save it. I squeeze the tomato seeds out of the ripe tomatoes, then put in a container and add a bit of water. I leave the dish at room temperature for a few days until the mixture is covered with a layer of mold. The mix is quite stinky at this point, so while it’s fermenting I put it somewhere it won’t be disturbed and where the odor won’t be too obnoxious. The below photo shows seeds of a red tomato I was saving a couple of years ago, and you can see the white blotches of mild forming on the surface. In another day the mold was covering the surface and I proceeded to the next step.
Once fermented, I dump the seeds into a fine mesh strainer then rinse with cold water to get the mold and debris off. Then I spread out the seeds on a paper coffee filter to let them dry. The coffee filter is the best material I have found for this, as the seeds don’t stick to it like they do on a paper or cloth towel. While the seeds are drying I try and break up the clumps and keep them spread out in a thin layer. I keep them indoors at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. They should be dry in a week or so.
I’m also hoping to save seeds from several other pepper this year, including a couple I use for paprika, a guajillo type, and a couple of the baccatum peppers like Aji Golden and Aji Angelo. With any luck I’ll have seeds from some of my favorite o/p peppers and tomatoes to share later this year. I hope you have enjoyed this update on my seed saving activities, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!
I love your blogs and always look forward to the next one. Thank you so much.
I’m glad you enjoy them Ann!
Interesting. I have never collected seed from peppers or tomatoes but I have suffered from preparing what were supposed to be mild chillies without gloves. I’m afraid it put me off chillies. If it does that to hands what does it do to insides?
I’m really hoping to get into seed saving in the future, beyond the typical legume & flower seeds that I currently save. I’ve read Suzanne’s book and will definitely be using that as a reference when I get into it more fully. Love the coffee filter tip – I’ll have to remember that!
This year I’m saving some “True Potato Seeds” (TPS) and will see if any germinate next year. Have you ever done this? It sounds like more of a gamble than saving tomato or chilli seeds.
Growing potato plants from TPS is fun and a salvation from the winter blahs. I start mine about mid-January under lights on the kitchen counter. To get them sprouted, the lights need to be about one inch above the potting medium. As they grow, it’s a good idea to keep a fan blowing gently on the plants to strengthen the vines. I pot them up a couple of times until they’re ready to go in the ground about mid-March for my neck of the woods (WNC mountains). They’ll need a full season to get decent-sized tubers. Keep the smaller ones for planting the following season.
I’ve never done that before Mark. Sounds like Ann has had success with it though!