Gathering seeds is like starting from scratch — like a bright shining moment that when combined with effort and anticipation lead to something great (at least that’s the hope). Next season’s planting, a new garden or dinner. It’s good intention without guarantee of reward but it’s worth it.
The simplest place to begin harvesting seeds is with flowers or fruits that are dry when mature, like these scarlet runner beans. You can see the fruit (in this case a bean pod) is parched and papery and long past the point of eating straight off the vine.
These particular seeds can be stored and saved to be cooked and eaten later, just like a pinto bean, or saved and planted with the next growing season. It’s as simple as it looks:
- Let a handful of beans dry on the vine (don’t eat all of them when they’re green).
- Harvest whole.
- Open along the sides or sutures.
- Have a collecting jar or harvest basket handy.
- Be ready. Seeds typically fall out once the pod is open. If not run your finger along the inside of the pod to pop them out.
- Store them in an air tight jar, seed packet or other container. Place in a cool, dark location until you’re ready to use.
Many flowers produce dry seeds and fruits, like this calendula. It’s a garden favorite, producing edible flowers with valuable medicinal qualities and is a fabulous companion plant. It often resows itself but I generally don’t hedge my bets. So I collect seeds when they’re mature to plant the succeeding crop or to share with a friend.
This is what it looks like when the seeds are ready. You can see the seed head, what was the flower, is primed to come apart and fall to the ground, growing itself again.
There’s more than one way to gather seeds like these:
- Larger seeds are easily grasped by hand. I often take some and leave the rest.
- Or remove the flowering stalk and place in a bag, jar or envelope. Once in an enclosed environment seeds can be shaken free. This is particularly helpful when working with smaller seeds and seeds in capsules or follicles like with poppies or delphiniums.
- Let the chaff fall away or not. Bits of flower parts won’t affect seed viability as long as they’re dry and completely free of moisture.
Harvesting seeds with fleshy fruits like tomatoes or cucumbers is more involved. See How to Collect and Save Tomato Seeds to get started or stick with the basics for now.
Gather seeds from heirloom or open pollenated plants. Organic is a good rule of thumb too. Read Seeds 101 | Seed Selection & Terminology to learn more.
Related post: Seed Saving Made Simple