How to save seeds from heirloom fruits and vegetables with links to sources for heirloom seeds to get started. Saving seeds is easy! Give it a try!
I love to garden. Growing vegetables and fruits that feed and nourish my family gives me a sense of satisfaction that is hard to put into words. When my hands are in the dirt caring for the plants that will feed my loved ones, nourishing life, I feel a connection to the Creator. That sense of connection deepens when you save your own seeds from one year’s garden and grow next year’s garden from them. Saving seeds gives you an even deeper connection to the life cycle and is a lot of fun as well! 🙂
This post contains affiliate links. Read here for disclosure.
Reasons for Saving Your Own Seeds
Saving Seeds=Savings on Grocery Bills
For example, organic sweet red peppers cost around $2.00 each at grocery stores here in the midwest. From a $4 packet of heirloom, non-hybrid, non-GMO seeds for Bull Nose Sweet Red Peppers that I purchased four years ago from Seed Savers Exchange, I have grown over $500 in retail value of organic sweet red peppers.
I count the number of sweet red pepper I grow every year, and every year I’ve grown over $100 worth of organic peppers. I like to roast and can my sweet red peppers. A jar of store-bought roasted sweet red peppers costs about $4 in the grocery store. The savings multiply when I grow, roast and can my own organic sweet red peppers.
Now consider that four years ago I also bought $4 packets of heirloom seeds for cantaloupe, tomatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, dry beans, sunflowers, cucumbers, okra, turnips, radishes, beets, and kale. Growing successive organic gardens from seeds saved from most of those plants (some failed, some I didn’t like) and the saving is significant.
What Does “Heirloom” Mean?
The term “heirloom” simply means that a plant is not a hybrid or genetically modified. Heirloom plants are also often called “open pollinated”.
What is a Hybrid Plant?
A hybrid is an organism created by crossing two species of the same genus. For example, a mule is a hybrid animal because it is a cross between a horse and a donkey.
Hybrid plants are crosses of two different species of plants to get traits from both parents that are desirable. Hybridizing can improve disease resistance, fruit production, and larger sized produce. This is why commercial growers use hybrid seeds.
However, hybrids cannot reproduce. The two species have to be continually crossed to get the hybrid offspring. You can’t breed a mule to a mule and get a foal. Mules are sterile. A donkey and a horse must continually be crossed to get a mule.
Seeds from hybridized plants will either not produce fruit at all or produce fruit that is small, misshapen, and useless. This is why you can’t save seeds from a grocery store tomato or any other produce and grow the tomatoes yourself. Hybrid seeds must be purchased from a seed company every year.
You can do a search for companies that sell heirloom seeds. I only have experience getting seeds from Johnny’s Select Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange and have been given great service from both. I included Heirloom Seeds because they look like a good source, but I don’t know anything about them from experience.
Saving Seeds Preserves Biodiversity in Our Food Supply
If you’re not familiar with saving your own seeds, you’re probably not aware of the tremendous varieties of each kind of vegetable, fruit, and flower. The incredible variety in each species provides security for our food supply. Some varieties are susceptible to some diseases while others are not. If in a growing season one variety fails, another variety succeeds and the food supply is sustained.
How to Save Seeds from the Plants You Grow in Your Garden
Purchase Seeds for Heirloom Plants
As discussed above, almost all commercially grown produce is hybridized. Seeds for hybridized plants are labeled “hybrid” so avoiding them is pretty easy. Due to demand, more heirloom variety seeds are showing up on seed racks in stores in the spring. To be sure I’m getting high-quality heirloom seeds, though, I buy them either from Seed Savers Exchange or Johnny’s Select Seeds.
Plant the seeds in your garden according to the directions on the seed packet. Then water, fertilize as needed, and watch the plants grow and produce fruit.
Choose for next year’s seeds the best fruits from your garden. You’ll want to be passing along to next year’s garden the best traits from this year’s garden. Let the fruits overripen to be sure the seeds inside are mature for planting next year. For plants such as tomatoes that produce lots of seeds inside one piece of fruit, just choose two or three of the best fruits and let them overripen, then harvest the seeds.
For plants that produce a few seeds per pod, such as beans and peas, choose a few plants, mark them with a colored string, and let them dry down completely. Then shell the seeds from the pods in the late fall.
Harvesting and Saving Next Year’s Seeds
For fruits that produce a lot of seeds in one fruit, such as tomatoes or melons, cut open the overripe fruit and scrape out the seeds. Feed the overripe fruit to the chickens or put in the compost pile.
Wash the seeds in a strainer under running water, then dry them for a few days on a paper towel laying on a few layers of old newspaper.
Tomato seeds tend to stick to the paper towel as they dry. This is fine. Just tear off a few at a time and place them in the soil still sticking to the paper towel next spring. It won’t hurt a thing and makes them easier to handle anyway because they are so small.
My Favorite Heirloom Varieties for Saving Seeds
Missouri Pink Love Apple
This tomato is a lighter-colored beefsteak tomato. We like it because it’s a lower-acid tomato with great flavor that slices beautifully. Click here to learn how to grow tomatoes!
This green bean lives up to its name! It produces a lot of beautiful, large, flavorful green beans.
Petites Gris de Rennes
This melon plant produces lots of sweet, juicy, flavorful fruit. It’s an heirloom variety of cantaloupe and we love it. It has a smooth skin and will turn from green to yellow-orange and green quickly when ripe.
Large, sweet, flavorful, and produces lots of fruit. The plant really spreads and needs plenty of room.
These cucumbers are straight, sweet, and just the right size for pickling.
Good Mother Stallard
I didn’t grow any this year because I cut back on the garden, but I still have the seeds. Good Mother Stallard is a big, meaty bean that makes a great winter soup.
SWEET RED PEPPER
A large, thick-walled sweet red pepper that produces lots of seeds to save. Incredibly sweet, roasts, freezes, and cans well.
I hope you’ll consider buying heirloom seeds and saving the seeds from the plants for next year, even if all you grow is a tomato plant in a container on your balcony. Kids will get a great lesson in genetics. Heirloom plants are beautiful and connect us to our past, and I just think it’s a good idea to keep biodiversity in our food supply.
Plus, growing a garden from seeds you’ve saved is empowering. I always feel a little like Tom Hanks in Castaway when my plants grow and produce food for me and my family. I want to flex my muscles and cry out, “See!! See!! I have made FOOD!!” and do a little primitive dance around the garden. ?
When Spring Comes Around…
Shop Here for the Items Needed for Saving Seeds
I’m so glad you stopped by! Feel free to ask any question about saving seeds! I’m here to help!