If you saved the seeds from the cooking process, you could plant them next year and you will probably get nice plants - but the fruit might not be the same. Most fruit sold is the result of careful plant breeding.
If you want to save seed, there are a few basics. The very first rule is that the plants have to be Open-Pollinated (designated OP in the catalogs). Hybrids are a mix of all kinds of ancestors, and won’t breed true, almost always reverting back to a less desirable parent.
If you have no intention of saving the seed of certain kinds of vegetables, it doesn’t matter how many kinds or varieties you plant, or how close you plant them. Cross-pollination only affects the next generation, not the fruit or root you’ll be eating.
Some crops cross-pollinate more easily than others. In a small garden, the easiest way to ensure purity is to grow not more than one variety of any species at a time, and hope a nearby neighbor isn’t, either. Next best is growing them as far apart as you can, or planting other kinds of plants between them.
A good seed catalog can provide a lot of information (Territorial Seed has a good one.) You’re mostly interested in the Genus, Species and Variety. For a cabbage, the Genus is Brassica, the Species is oleracea, and one variety is
‘Savoy Perfection’ (single quotes): Brassica oleracea ‘Savoy Perfection’. If the first two names of one kind are the same as another (Brassica oleracea), the plants may cross. If they are different, they are not likely to cross.
Corn is the only vegetable (it’s really a grass) where cross-pollination affects the first crop (the silk is the closest thing to its flower, the tassels provide the pollen, and the corn kernels are the seeds). If your sweet corn is cross-pollinated by field corn or popcorn upwind, the blandness of the corn you’re eating ten days later will be noticeable, and the saved seed would be inferior also.
Squashes, Pumpkins & Gourds consist of five different species. They will cross within the same species, but won’t usually cross between the species in nature. So, if you wanted to grow one variety of each species, you should be able to grow them all in one yard and still get pure seed.
* Cucurbita pepo: Pumpkins, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, yellow crookneck summer squash, scallop/patty pan squash, delicates, vegetable gourds, and small, hardshell gourds (yellow-flowered).
* Cucurbita moschata: Butternut squash, Long Island cheese squashes, Dickinson and Kentucky field pumpkins, Seminole pumpkin, Neck pumpkin, Calabaza.
* Cucurbita maxima: Buttercup squash, Banana squash, Hubbard squash, Kabocha squash, Lakota squash, Arikara squash.
* Cucurbita mixta: Green-striped Cushaw (aka Kershaw)
* Cucurbita ficifolia: Shark-fin melon
(Note: none of the squashes will cross with the white-flowered hardshell gourds))
All of the Brassica oleracea (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts) will cross with each other, but not all the others in the family will. Check the species name (the one following ‘Brassica’), if any are the same they may cross, but if they’re different, they won’t. Weeds with the same species name can cross with the domestic one.
Melons will cross with each other, but nothing else. Ditto for cucumbers.
Beans and peas drop their pollen and self-pollinate the evening before the flowers open, so the pollen is not very available to pollinating insects. Two feet between bush types is usually enough if you’re not selling the seed or keeping heirlooms pure. Pole types are a bit more promiscuous, and should be separated by more space, by different types of plants, or adjacent varieties should be very different so you will see a hybrid the following year and yank it before it flowers..
Lettuce is generally self-pollinating, but if you want to keep the strains separate, you’d best plant them 12-25 ft apart, or grow different vegetables between them. But keep its ancestor, the weed called prickly lettuce from flowering, or it could cross with your domestic lettuce.
Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers don’t cross among themselves, and are self-pollinating, but if you plant different varieties at least ten feet apart, there shouldn’t be any crossing.
Carrots will cross with each other and the wild weed called Queen Anne’s Lace, which is a carrot ancestor, if they are within 1000 feet of each other. The weed crosses are easy enough to weed out when you harvest the roots: they’re thin, white and tough.
1) Mark a couple fruits from several plants (12 is not too many, the more separate plant sources, the better and healthier the diversity of genes). Colored surveyor's tape is good. Warn your family not to pick any of the marked fruits.
2) Let the marked fruits mature. Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers (etc) will be past their prime and softening. Leave winter squashes on the vine either until the vines wither or a serious frost threatens.
3) Fruits with seeds trapped inside are obviously easier to collect than those that are released from small pods. Collect tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squashes, melons, gourds, okra and tomatillos when they are very mature. Immature seeds won’t sprout, ever. Cut them open and collect the seeds. Some will be dark (like watermelon) and some will be very light or white (cucumbers, melons). The easiest way to dry them so they don’t rot or mold is to put them in open containers or paper bags with their species and varieties written on them. Shake them and stir them up every day, so they dry evenly.
Tomatoes are a little different, as they have a coating that prevents sprouting, and you’ll have to remove it by fermentation (and it helps kill any bacteria, too). Squeeze the seeds out of the tomato or scrape them out with a spoon into a quart jar. Add just as much water as you have seed pulp and stir. Put the jar in a place where you won’t notice the unpleasant smell for three days. Don’t worry about the mold that forms, it’s part of the process. On the third day, scrape off the mold and stir the rest of the contents. Spoon or pour off all the yucky stuff on the top, including any floating seeds (they’re no good if they float), and save the seeds that are sitting on the bottom of the jar. After you’ve poured out most of the junk, add more water to the bottom seeds and stir again. Pour off anything that floats. Repeat until all you have in the jar is clear water and seeds sitting on the bottom. Pour through a strainer, and then dump the seeds onto a glass plate or cake pan and stir a couple of times a day to help them dry. Some people spread them out on paper towels instead, and let them stick to the towel as it dries out. When they are thoroughly dry, they just roll or fold the paper towel and put it in a labeled paper envelope for storage, and tear them apart when they plant them next year. Otherwise, keep stirring them around on the plate until they’re dry and mostly separated.
3) Smaller seeds like parsley, carrots and dill will need to be watched carefully, and harvested when they are fairly dry. If you think you might forget and they’ll fall to the ground, you can make simple cloth (polyester organdy or similar fabric allows air in and dries quickly after rain or watering) drawstring bags to put over the seed heads as they are maturing, pull the string snugly around the base of the flower and tie in a bow. When they’re dry and crisp, just cut the heads off the stems with the bags still on, and collect them in a large bowl. Remove the bags and tap out the loose seeds when you’re out of the wind. Be sure to mark the kind and variety of seeds that they are.
4) Let pea pods and beans dry on the vine. Then collect them on a dry day into an open container and let them dry even more out of the weather. Remove from the pods when they are dry and crisp, and store in marked paper bags.
5) Some seeds are at the base of the dried flowers, like sunflowers, artichoke and cardoon. Cut the dry heads off and rub or pull the dry center of the flowers off. The seeds are embedded in the base of the flower. Remove and dry.
6) Seeds must be carefully stored to retain their viability. Store them in marked paper bags or envelopes, which will allow them to dry out more if they need it. Plastic bags contribute to molding and rot if they aren’t dry enough. Keep cool and dry. Heat and moisture will decrease their viability considerably. Some people store their seeds in a freezer, but if the seeds are too moist, it will kill the embryo. A refrigerator is a better place, or a cool basement.
7) Carrots, cabbage, parsnips, leeks, onions, celery, beets, turnips, kohlrabi and salsify are biennials. They produce their crop one year and their seeds the next spring, and then they die. Here is some info for cold climates, as you will have to make some effort to keep them alive through the winter for them to flower the next year: http://www.cog.ca/documents/Savingseedsofbiennialvegetables.pdf
Most of these have umbel-type flowers, and cloth bags may be the easiest way to collect the largest amount of seeds. If you try to harvest them when they are green, they will not be viable and won’t sprout.
so far have...
acorn squash 'table queen'
hubbard squash 'golden hubbard'
summer squash 'early prolific straightneck'
canteloupe 'hales best'
beans 'pencil pod black wax bean' 've never grown this variety before but it is supposed to be a bit less prolific but more heat tolerant. I usually grow cherokee wax I need to find out if it is op too. maybe I will get some just in case the pencil pod is a dudd. but I need to find out if I could save seed from it.
sugar snap peas (these I am not sure if they are open pollinated as so far I haven't been able to find the info, it would be great if they were, I grow them everyyear it is my favorite treat! as long as they are available I will grow them either way!)
beans 'kentucky wonder 125' I couldn't find any kentucky wonders without the # after and I am not sure if they are op but I doubt it. I think I got them mixed up with bluelakes that are op...I think.....need to do more bean research....
sue do you know?
need to get some paste tomatoes especially that are op
I always grow 'sweet 100's' and 'beef masters' although they probably aren't op. I need to find some similiar ones that are op so that I know i can keep them coming everyyear without depending on seed companies.
hubbard squash 'golden hubbard' - OP
summer squash 'early prolific straightneck' - OP
canteloupe 'hales best' - OP, heirloom
'pencil pod black wax bean' - OP, heirloom
cherokee wax - OP, very heirloom, like from 500B.C.
sugar snap peas - OP
beans 'kentucky wonder 125' - OP, heirloom (#125 is the bush variety)
bluelake - OP
'sweet 100s' - Hybrid
'beef masters' - Hybrid
OP paste tomatoes:
Amish paste - heirloom
Roma - heirloom
Banana Legs - heirloom
OP beefsteak-type tomatoes:
1884 - heirloom
Beefsteak - heirloom
Goliath - heirloom
Mortgage Lifter - heirloom
Red Brandywine - heirloom
Reiner - heirloom
Ugly - heirloom
Pink Brandywine - Amish heirloom
New Big Dwarf - hierloom
Yellow Brandywine - Amish heirloom
OP Cherry tomatoes:
Matt's Wild Cherry - heirloom
Red Current (very small fruits) - heirloom
Tiny Tim - heirloom
Blondkopfchen (yellow) -heirloom
None of these lists are complete.
Leah Sattler wrote:......I always grow 'sweet 100's' and 'beef masters' although they probably aren't op. I need to find some similiar ones that are op so that I know i can keep them coming everyyear without depending on seed companies.
leah, i always have to grow the hybrid Sweet 100 for market cause it's so well liked, but this year i found an 'open pollinated' version i'll be trying out. i found it here at Mapple Farm...
SWEET 100 OP*--
”OP” stands for Open
Pollinated to avoid confusion with the once
popular hybrid version of this plant. This very
large, productive indeterminate bears 1”
(2.5 cm) round, red fruits. Its enjoyable sweet-
acid balance seems to fit what many consider
the standard for a cherry tomato--of that
comfortable “what I grew up with” quality.
So if I buy seeds labeled Organic or Heirloom the seeds would be saveable / worth saving?
Don't save seeds from hybrids. Organic is a legal term now and a hybrid could be organic...once again don't save the seeds from hybrids and expect the next generation plant to be like the parent.
Try to find varieties that are listed as "OP" (Open Pollinated). Not all vendors mark them as such. If in doubt, just ask. As stated above, "Organic" could also be hybrid, although there are probably not many organic hybrid varieties (yet). That however may change now that all of the "Big Boys" are trying to cash in on the organic band wagon.
paul wheaton wrote:
If you have a cherry tomato plant next to a paste tomato plant, and then you save the seeds and plant them next year, you could get all sorts of interesting kinds of tomato plants!
I find tomatoes really don't cross much, even when grown in close proximity. I have variety I've saved for 7 or 8 years now and it has always grown alongside other very different varieties. This still grows true to type......
From what I understand if you want a cross bred tom you need to be proactive and make it cross.....
I am by no means an expert but I do believe that seed saving is a big part of how I want to practice permaculture. By not having to purchase seeds every year we become more self sustaining and also, according to a local organic farmer, the plant begins to acclimate to the local area and becomes hardier to that particular climate. He has been pretty successful so I tend to believe him. His first question when he helps new farmers get started is "do you have REAL seed?" And by that he means seed from plants grown in your area.
In my naivete my question really was something like: Are there any important considerations I should be thinking about when I choose which plant's seeds to save? Like which qualities are going to better serve that kind of plant when I try to grow it again next year?
Any thoughts on that question would be welcome.
I grew competition pumpkins, tomatoes, etc, for some time. The pumpkins were the ones that had to be harvested with a forklift and carved with a chainsaw... that said.
In competition growing there is a lot of controlled and hand pollination. You want to know what genetics went into the offspring. This means bagging blooms, Q-tips and playing 'bee' yourself. (mostly for the pumpkins...) I would sew 'bloom bags' of sheer curtains and use yarn as the drawstring. Night before the blooms were set to open I would select the male and female blooms that I wished to use for the cross (usually 3 male to one female, they did look different) and bag them so they couldn't be visited by an early morning sneaky bee and contaminate the pollen. Next morning early I would get out there, pick the male blooms still in bag, and take them to where the lady was, unbag the males and take the petals off, then unbag the female and pollenate. Three blooms of pollen meant a good pollination which was necessary for a large well shaped fruit. Then tie the female shut with a bit of yarn and rebag her. In a few days it could be seen that the pollination had taken and the base of the flower was swelling, so the bag could come off and the petal part would detach, leaving the developing fruit. These bags were easily big enough for me to stick my fist into and came past wrist to about halfways down my lower arm. (scale of those pumpkins and plants and all related parts are immense).
For tomatoes I made smaller ones. Also I would pick off the side blooms of the cluster so only the biggest one or two was left. Bag. When bloom day came, same thing, either pick bloom from father plant to pollenate mother plant bloom, or use q-tip to transfer the pollen. With the bloom protected you got the full pollen load which helps in pollenating. After pollination rebag for a few days. Tomatoes do not have sex-oriented blooms. Later in season I could reuse the pumpkin bloom bags (easy to swish clean and quick to dry) to bag fruit to prevent the grasshoppers from getting to them before I did, especially on fruit I was going to use for seed.
You can grow for greatness or grow for harvest with tomatoes, and the basic care for the first two months is pretty much the same, then you make the choice and train the plant appropriately. Setting fruit and letting it go to seed ripe will drop your productivity of the vine, so do pay attention there.
Peppers, I have also bagged and q-tipped, and if I bring some in, if they bloom, I can q-tip and harvest at least one round indoors over winter. Usually plants brought in will ripe off about December, bloom, and if pollenated will give me another crop about April. I can set that bloom as well, and take them out for an early season harvest. Most 'green' peppers if left to themselves will eventually turn red. They are picked at green for a milder flavor. You can collect from a green pod but it will vary on how successful you will be in the seed sprouting. Peppers are a perennial, though are mostly grown as annuals. They can be taken in if potted in large enough pots, to make the winter and go out again in the spring. They do need a LOT of light though.
Tomatoes and pumpkins I have propagated and kept over winter. Pumpkins set anchor roots at each vine node, so you can lay a running end into a long windowbox, let it root in, sever it, and take it in. Put another windowbox in tandem, and keep letting it root, sever, and remove the back part and continue until spring. A grower I knew kept a favorite vine going for five years (he used it as a pollinator and it did wonderful things to his breeding line). I have personally air layered tomato plants as well as sucker propagated them, to keep a particular plant around (three years for a Delicious) for the same reason, plus to give me some more great tomatoes.
Saving seeds, some need to be 'fermented' to be cleaned (aka tomatoes) and some just need to be thoroughly dried (pumpkin and related cucurbita after washing to get rid of the 'slime'). Though I have done a quick 'oxyclean' of tomato seeds, it may not work as well. Once separated they have to be cleaned of the 'slime' and other organics, then dried. Peppers, I often let the entire pod just dry out, then carefully cut open and remove the seeds and grind or flake the pod. If you are harvesting from a fresh fruit, remove seeds, deslime, then dry in air on a fine screen, and stir or turn your seeds often. They need less turning as they dry out. Try to have enough space so that the seeds do not have to touch, where they touch they can clump and they can also mold. Also make sure wherever you dry your seeds, that they are NOT accessible to mice. One mouse can really destroy your hard work at seed harvest! Most people will harvest maybe 100 seeds tops for attempting to regrow something, in competition, you may have several fruits and end up with double digit thousands to process at close to the same time. That is when it's daunting. Grabbing 20-30 out of something you're going to eat won't be much time or bother to process.
Also note that some seeds need a cold period once processed, a sort of dormancy, to get them into the mood to sprout. Popping them into a part of the fridge where they can't freeze for 1-3 months (check on what you're saving for recommendations).
If your fruit donor is an OP and not a hybrid/hybred (usually stuff that is Plant Patented, PP or Plant Patent Applied For, PPAF) should breed true if it was pollenated by self or same variety. The best way to make sure of what is in your seed genetics if you want to save seeds from what you grow, is to do the isolating and self pollinating I mentioned. I tend to grow several to many different tomatoes varieties a year so if I want 'purity' I have to work for it.
If your donor fruit is ripe when you process it, your seeds should be okay if you collect them at the 'raw' stage. Just make sure they are ripe and not 'air seeds' (looks like a seed but didn't fully form-literally empty).
Always taste the donor fruit! You want to select for best flavor.
Also, research what you pick up to propagate. I recently bought a chayote, and was going to cut it open and remove seeds, it's a sort of squash. I left it sit on the counter and it put up a shoot! I went okay, I've had seeds sprout inside fruit before so I looked it up before I cut into it. Chayote is a single embryo, the entire fruit is the seed. Oh. It's a hot weather long season. It's got 3" of shoot and starting to do tendrils and it's snowing right now (our spring is 3 months of warm with the occasional cold spike). After 51 years growing stuff I am still learning and being surprised. Now back to your topic.
If your donor is not a hybrid or GMO, it should come true, depending on what pollenated it. (looking at avocados, the most common is Haas, which is a dark green, and it is crossed with Fuerte, which is almost black looking, for best pollination. You will usually see Haas in the store, and an occasional burst of Fuerte. Be reminded those are the mother tree, the father is the other, and if you grow out the seed you're getting a cross. If you want Haas you have to BUY a grafted Haas tree, it has to be grafted because Haas true rootstock isn't all that hardy. I'm told also that some of the orchards will just graft a Fuerte branch onto each Haas so they have pollination coverage, else it's 10 Haas per Fuerte).
A lot of permies also will regrow some of their store boughts, such as replanting a celery heart, to produce more. So going to your food to get more food is a time honored and frugal thing to do. Happy growing in 2017
Came back to edit/add: if washing your seeds or cleaning them, always use water that is at best lukewarm. hot water will kill your seeds. I usually set out water to degas (I am on city water) for a day and warm or cool to room temperature to wash/clean my seeds during processing.