Be Especially Careful When Harvesting Seeds
When harvesting seeds, be especially careful not to damage them. Usually seeds become dry, hard, and brown. Some will have already dispersed. Some seeds may already have been damaged by hungry animals or wet weather. Be especially careful when harvesting seeds from mature plants. Some seeds may be easily contaminated by overhead watering. If you are harvesting seeds from a mature plant, you should be careful to label them with a date of maturity.
Plants should be marked by type. You can do this by tying bright colored yarn around them. The yarn should be loose enough to let the plant grow, but not so tight that it breaks. You can also put small stakes in front of them. Using the correct labeling will help you determine which plants are self-pollinating and which ones are cross-pollinated. You can also label the plants by color and shape to avoid confusion.
Using a food dehydrator is an effective way to dry seeds. Just be sure to choose a low setting. Temperatures above 96 degrees Fahrenheit can damage seed embryos. They will not germinate if exposed to too much heat. If you don’t have a food dehydrator, you can simply place dried seeds on a non-stick surface. Avoid using paper towels or cardboard for this task, because seeds will stick to them. Besides, heat destroys their effectiveness as a seed.
When you are ready to store your seedlings, be sure to store them in an airtight container. Seeds can lose vigor if they are exposed to moisture and heat, so store them in a cool basement or refrigerator. Also, be sure to label them with the date they were harvested. Using plastic or metal containers will protect seeds from moisture. A plastic ziplock bag or Mason jar will work well.
Once the seedlings are dry, it is time to store them. You can store them in an air-conditioned room or in ziploc bags. Be careful to store them out of the way as moisture will cause mold and ruin them. You can also donate your seeds to a seed exchange like NANPS. Just be sure to label them correctly so you can share them with others. Keep them in a cool, dry place for several weeks before harvesting.
When harvesting seedlings, be especially careful to ensure that the pods are mature. Seed pods are ready for harvest when they change color from green to dark brown or black. Seeds should be firm but not brittle. The seed pods should be easily detachable from the stalk. In some cases, the seeds will not be fully mature until they are completely dry. To know when to harvest your seedlings, do your research on the specific species you are planning to harvest.
To store your seeds properly, you must dry them in an air-conditioned place that is free of direct sunlight. Seeds can remain viable for up to four years. However, their germination rates diminish with every year. Therefore, newer seeds are better for germination. Be especially careful when harvesting seeds because sometimes seed pods can look similar. To make the seeds easier to identify, the Seed Savers Exchange offers labels for free.
Seed saving is an important part of our food culture. Without seed saving, heirloom crops wouldn’t exist. Seed saving allowed us to pass on the knowledge we have gained over time. It was also used by Indigenous groups to preserve their traditions and important crops. These practices have many benefits. Saved seeds can help us save our environment by producing more food. These seeds can also be passed on to future generations.