The Why And How Of Saving Your Own Seed's

If left to themselves, our fleshy fruits would naturally fall to the soil and rot slowly, allowing some of their seeds to settle into the ground , and sprout when spring arrives. Saving seeds from these plants mimics Nature s way of gardening.

But remember, only seeds from open-pollinated (not hybrid) plants will produce the same crop next year. And except for tomatoes, you need to be fairly certain that the plants in question have not been cross pollinated by insects. Such saved seeds might grow into something similar to the parents, or something tough and tasteless. Tomatoes are self-pollinating . So if you avoid hybrid varieties you'll be able to grow the same tomato from seed saved from each plant next year, even if different varieties were grown close together. Pepper and eggplant flowers can be cross-pollinated by insects, so different varieties of these would have had to be separated by 500-feet this season for seed purity.

Cucurbits family, crops such as squash, cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins and melons need even more personal space. All of these garden favorites must be pollinated by insects, so unless close relatives (of the same species) have been separated by a half-mile or more, you'll get some kind of squash surprise if you grow seeds. Seeds of tomatoes, peppers, melons and winter squash are ready for saving when the fruits are ripe and ready to eat. Peppers are the easiest. The seeds are mature after the peppers have changed color to their final stage of ripeness. Cut the peppers open, scrape the seeds onto a plate, eat the pepper and let the seeds dry in a non-humid, shaded place, testing them occasionally until they break rather than bend.

Saving tomato seeds take a little more time. Harvest nicely ripe tomatoes from several different vines of the same variety, cut each across the middle and gently squeeze the juice and seeds into a bowl. You will note that each tomato seed is encased in a gelatinous coating. (this prevents the seed from sprouting inside the tomato.) Remove this coating by fermenting it. This mimics the natural rotting of the fruit and has the added bonus of killing seedborne tomato disease. To save the seeds of eggplants, you'll need to wait until the fruits are far past the stage when you'd pick them for kitchen purposes. Seeds saved from table-ready eggplants will be immature. Left on the plant, purple eggplant varieties will ripen to a dull-brownish color and will turn yellowish-green, and white becomes golden. Eggplants ready for seed saving will be dull, off-colored and hard.

Cut the ripe eggplants in half and pull the flesh away from the seeded areas. If you want to save more than a few seeds, a food processor comes in handy to mash the flesh and expose the seeds.

After cucumbers ripen, they change color and start to become mushy. Note: Remember, if you stop picking cucumbers, their vines will stop producing new fruit, so you may want to pick your seed-savers toward the end of the season.

Cut the ripe cucumber in half and scrape the seeds into a bowl. To remove their slimy coating, rub them gently around the inside of a sieve while washing them or soak them in water for 2-days. Rinse and dry.

You'll need to let your summer squash ripen past the tender stage, too. When you can't dent the squash with a fingernail, it's ready to have its seed saved. Pick it, cut it open, scrape the seeds into a bowl, wash, drain, And, Finely there's Watermelons. After finishing off the tasty flesh, Put the seeds (spitting contests optional)in a strainer and add a drop of dish washing liquid to remove any sugar and saliva left on the seeds.

So, why should you save your own seed?

If you raise and save your seeds, you are producing seed for your garden, and, by careful selection over several generations of plants, you can produce plants best suited to your climate and your gardening conditions. no one else but you can do this. Flavor, pest and disease resistance, early bearing, and size are among the many characteristics that can be enhanced by careful selection over a period of years