Potential Energy

I’ve gone to the farmer’s market this summer more regularly than the past several years combined (it helps that my son is now old enough to come along on the hour-plus round-trip walk, and his stroller takes some of the load out of my backpack). The more I work with fresh, local vegetables, the more I think that maybe I should try to plant a garden next year. This is a big deal for me, because yardwork and keeping plants alive is not exactly my specialty, but my resolve is growing all the time, right alongside the basil plant and baby leeks on the windowsill (which have recently been joined by some rosemary cuttings I’m hoping to root).

As I consider the sorts of vegetables I might be able to grow in the spring, I’m keeping my eyes on the produce I keep bringing home. As part of my goal of total use, I have been looking into saving seeds wherever possible. Not all vegetables are fully mature when we eat them—green peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini are all examples—but I have been squirreling away tomato, cantaloupe and various pepper seeds in the hopes that they will be viable next spring.

The most important consideration when saving seeds appears to be dehydration. If your seeds are not fully dry when you store them, they may well mold or rot. I have been dehydrating my seeds in the sun whenever we have warm enough days, and otherwise in the oven on the lowest possible setting, long enough to take most of the moisture out of them. Then, just to be safe, I set them out on the countertop for a week or more in little open containers, stirring them up from time to time.

I outlined the procedure for saving tomato seeds in a previous post, which requires a few days of fermentation to stave off disease and strip the gel coating off the velvety seeds. Cantaloupe seeds should be covered with water, and all the floating bits—bits of pulp and under-developed seeds—skimmed off before draining and drying as described above. Pepper seeds need the least fuss, but be careful to protect your hands if saving seeds from hot peppers: I harvested from two banana peppers without wearing gloves, and several of my fingers had searing pepper burns for several hours due to the potent oils in the seeds and ribs. I am also saving dill seeds from some heads that I had leftover from making pickles, by placing them seed-side down in an open paper bag to dry out. As the seeds are ready for storage, I make little packets from waxed paper and label them so I will know what is what when the time comes; these will go in a box in my cool basement for now.

Of course, I will have no way of knowing if my seed-saving techniques are sound until next year when I cross my fingers and plant them. But I’ve been having fun dissecting my vegetables and dreaming about the possibilities.

This post is linked up to Simple Lives Thursday.

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3 thoughts on “Potential Energy

  1. September 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Just for what it is worth – I’d caution against using any seeds from plants that vine like cucumbers, melons, or pumpkins. If there is two different plants near each other, they could easily be cross pollinated by a bee or insect. If you go to the effort to garden (and I think you should – I LOVE it) you might as well increase your odds of success! It is very cheap to buy seeds or young plants of melons, cukes and pumpkin.

    Tomatoes and peppers should be more successful..


  2. September 2, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I save my seeds in baby food jars too and then put them in the fridge. I’ve not ever tried to save seeds from melons or cucubrits for just the reason Gina mentioned. Those things are so precious in Seattle that I want to make sure I know what I’m getting! Thanks for linking up to Simple Lives Thursday.

  3. September 8, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Gina, thanks for the warning! The farmstand I buy my cantaloupe from does sell watermelons also, so it could be a possibility for mutant melons.

    Annette, baby food jars are a great idea for a reusable seed storage system!

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