Harvesting - Let Me Count the Ways
There are many ways to harvest seeds. I have successfully harvested seeds from flowers, fruits and vegetables. Seed harvesting helps ensure we have a healthy seed supply for the next growing season as well as the ability to use surplus seeds to trade for varieties we do not have but would like to grow.
Even though I enjoy most fruits and vegetables, I must admit that I have a "YUCK" stash of seeds. These are things I know I will never grow or *GASP* eat! These are also the first seeds I offer up for trade in the groups I belong to! I may not like them but I guarantee you someone else loves them! There are things I like eating that others don't. When I told my bestest I was eating some beets her response was, "I knew you was weird." She can have ALL my asparagus and cauliflower and I will eat all her surplus beets!
Cantaloupe seeds are easy to harvest. I simply scrape out the seeds and pulp. Then I separate the seeds from the pulp and rinse them thoroughly. I usually leave the seeds on a plate or paper towel for approximately 2-3 weeks prior to storing them in seed baggies or envelopes. Seeds will mold very quickly if they are not properly dried! No one wants moldy seeds! Molding seeds can destroy an entire container of stored seeds very quickly so please make sure you are certain your seeds are dry prior to storing them.
I let my marigolds dry on the stems and then I pick them. That way I know most of the seeds are mature. I pluck them off the stems then place them in a drying rack for a couple of weeks and do a mass harvest. I simply grab the tips where the petals have fallen off and pull gently and the seeds come out. I raise many varieties of marigolds so I keep them separated and labeled in my drying racks as I do with various varieties of any flowers, fruits or vegetables I grow. Many people want to know not only what type of seeds they are receiving but the specific variety as well. I label everything I'm able to. I admit I do have mystery seeds and those are fun to grow and see what they will be. Some seed types are obvious but I cannot tell from the seed what color or variety it will be.
Nasturtium seeds grow on the plant. I "hunt" for them every now and then and if they look mature I will pick them off the plant and keep them separated by variety to dry until they change from their green fresh picked color to a dry and wrinkled tan/brown color. All parts of nasturtium are great for salads and they have medicinal uses as well.
Pepper seeds of any kind are very easy to harvest. You simply cut them open, scrape out the seeds and let them dry for several days. I usually leave mine on a plate or paper towel for approximately 10-14 days prior to storing them in seed baggies. BEWARE!! If you are harvesting hot pepper seeds wear gloves! Your eyes will thank you as well as anything else you may touch afterwards.
To harvest any type of squash I scoop out the insides and separate the seeds from the pulp and rinse them thoroughly. Then I leave the seeds in a mesh container for a couple of weeks. Stirring them at least once a day but usually multiple times to make sure the air is getting well circulated. The reason I used a mess strainer is because there are usually far too many squash seeds to try to use a plate or paper towel. They key is constantly mixing them each time I pass them so they have a chance to dry thoroughly.
Harvesting sunflower seeds is also easy. I wait until the heads of the sunflowers begin to droop and the petals brown and fall off. Then I cut the head from the stalk and move it to a drying rack for a couple of weeks. Once I feel it's sufficiently dry I will put on some gloves and basically rub the seeds loose. I wear gloves because I harvest so many sunflower seeds at one time I probably wouldn't have any skin left on my palms if I didn't wear them! I separate the seeds from the chaff and then I place them in a large baking dish to continue drying. I use my hands to thoroughly mix the seeds several times every day or two so they dry evenly and get rotated. Drying time depends on how many seeds I have as well as how deep my container is. I learned the hard way that seeds may feel dry but aren't completely dry and lost many sunflower seeds to mold last season because I harvested so many. It turns out when you have pounds and pounds of seeds a month isn't a long enough drying time to seal them up. Yes, this lesson I learned from sunflower seeds! I dried pounds of them for many weeks but the pan was deep as were the layers of seeds. This caused my seeds to dry unevenly. They felt dry and I began storing them. When I took some out for trading they had started to mold. What a disappointing and frustrating lesson! I no longer package sunflower seeds until I'm ready to ship them. I also dry my various seeds separately. I have many varieties of sunflowers. They each have their own drying container. It's the same for all my flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Tomatoes Big and Small and a Rainbow of Color
My preferred method for harvesting tomato seeds is fermenting. I scrape out all the seeds and gel that surrounds the seeds and place them in a small glass jar or container. I then add a small bit of water. Just enough to make sure the seeds are covered. I stir this concoction several times a day. Nasty things may grow on the top but that's ok. It can be scraped off and thrown away. I continue to stir until there is no longer gel on the seeds. Then I gently rinse them in a mesh strainer and place them in a single layer on a plate to dry. I typically dry them 10-21 days. Each day I sift through the seeds to make sure none are sticking together. I also make sure none are trying to germinate. It has happened to me more than once that the seeds have started sprouting before I could get them packaged. I harvest my seeds from split or other damaged tomatoes. This gives me more than enough viable seeds while still being able to eat the good fruits.
More to Come
I have a lot more to share and will add more to this page as I have time, so please check back occasionally for updates. Thank you.