Harvest seeds for 2009 (Google / The Gazette)

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Gardening with Dave: Harvest seeds for 2009

It doesn’t take much effort to produce more than you need

It’s September, or as it should be called, “the month of having more squash than you know what to do with.”


Saving seeds is the basic building block of our society. The practice that started perhaps as long ago as 10,000 years is the foundation of farming, which is the foundation of pretty much everything else. No seed saving and there’s no division of labor, no specializing in art or music or engineering, no technological innovation, no secondary education, no Frappuccinos, no forwarded e-mail clips of the “Daily Show.”


First the catches. If you are gathering seeds from hybrid plants, the offspring may bear little resemblance to their parents. How do you know whether you have hybrids? Most commercial tomatoes and corn, as well as some melons, squash and other vegetables, are hybrids (mixes of two varieties). Gather seeds from only heirloom or open-pollinated versions. With lettuce, herbs and most beans and peas, you’re safe.

Now, how do you get the seeds ready? First, let a few really nice fruit on your healthiest-looking plant fully ripen. For tomatoes, that means too soft to look at. For cucumbers that means turning yellow. For peas, the pods should be fat, lumpy and dry.

For herbs and lettuce, let the flower stalks grow, bloom and dry, then shake the stalks in a bag to remove the seed.

For some fruit, such as tomatoes, you need to let them ferment a bit to remove the slippery goop around the seed. Scoop the seeds into a jar, add water and let sit for a few days. Stir the mixture a few times a day. It will start to ferment and the seeds should drop to the bottom of the jar. Once that happens, pour the goopy liquid off and spread the seeds out on a plate for drying. Don’t dry them in the sun, the heat could kill the seeds.


Contact the writer: 636-0223 or dave.philipps@gazette.com

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.