Seed saving is a fun, sustainable activity that is both fun and educational to share with children. Some veggie seeds “save” better than others. A good choice for your first attempt is saving seeds from peppers.
Pepper Seed Viability
When saving seeds, the rule of thumb is don’t save seeds from hybrids. Hybrids are made up of deliberately crossing two different strains to create a super plant with the most desirable traits of the two parent plants. If you try to save the seed and reuse, you will likely end up with a product that has latent traits of the original parent plant but dissimilar to the hybrid from which you harvested the seeds.
When saving seed, choose open pollinated varieties, either cross or self-pollinated, rather than hybrids. Open pollinated varieties are often heirlooms. Cross pollinating produce are difficult to replicate from seed. These include:
These plants have two varied sets of genes. They require a much greater planting distance from each other, so they do not cross pollinate, as in a popcorn variety of corn crossing with a sweet corn and resulting in less than desirable ear of corn. Hence, saving seeds from peppers and other self-pollinating veggies such as beans, eggplant, lettuce, peas, and tomatoes are more likely to result in offspring that is true to the parent.
How to Harvest Pepper Seeds
Pepper seed saving is an easy task. When harvesting pepper seeds, be sure to choose fruit from the most vigorous plant with the most delicious taste. Allow the chosen fruit to remain on the plant until it becomes completely ripe and begins to wrinkle. You must ensure that the pods you have chosen become fully mature for the maximum pepper seed viability; this may take several months.
Then remove the seeds from the peppers. Inspect them and remove any that are damaged or discolored, then spread them out on paper towels or newspaper to dry. Place the drying seeds in a warm area out of direct sunlight. Turn the seeds every couple of days to make sure the bottom layer is drying as well. After a week or so, check to see if the seeds are dry enough. Dry seeds will be quite brittle and will not dent when you bite them.
Proper Pepper Seed Saving
The key to maintaining pepper seed viability is in how it is stored; you must keep a constant temperature and eliminate any excess moisture. Correctly stored peppers seeds can last for many years, although the germination rate begins to wane as time goes by.
Store seeds in a cool, dark, dry area in temps between 35 and 50 degrees F. (1-10 C). Store them in airtight plastic bags within a Tupperware container, for example, in the fridge. You can also store your seeds in tightly sealed glass containers, just keep the seed dry and cool.
A small amount of silica gel desiccant added to the container will aid in moisture absorption. Silica gel is sold in bulk at craft stores for drying flowers. Powdered milk can also be used as a desiccant. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons (15-30 ml.) of dry milk wrapped in a piece of cheesecloth or facial tissue and tucked inside the container of seeds. Powdered milk is a viable desiccant for about six months.
Lastly, be sure to clearly label your seeds. Most pepper seeds look remarkably similar and it is easy to forget by the time planting time arrives. Label not only the name and variety, but also the date you collected them.