Seed Saving and the New Karma Seed Library!

Maybe you’re a seasoned gardener, or maybe you got caught up in the spring’s fever that made seeds sales skyrocket and the supply get a little scarce. Next year will likely be a little less intense, but in any case it’s easy to save seed for next year’s sowing — with lots to spare. Plants offer a kind of mind-boggling generosity and hold the potential for a future that is more abundant than the present — a welcome narrative in tough times.  

Next spring, we’ll offer a Karma seed library for members, where you can “borrow” seeds for free in the early spring and return more saved seed in the fall. If you’d like to contribute to the Karma Seed Library, drop off any seeds you’d like to share in the marked box underneath the members’ table. Make sure they’re labelled with the variety and the date they were saved. If you’d like to package them individually, that’s helpful (I fold these easy origami envelopes) but not strictly necessary.  

If you’re new to seed saving, a few general principles apply: 

  • Always pick a large, ripe (even overripe) fruit from a healthy plant. 
  • Only save seed from heirloom or open-pollinated plants: hybrid (or F1) varieties don’t reproduce faithfully. (Check your seed package or google the name of your plant to check.) 
  • It’s useful to pop newly harvested seeds in the freezer for a couple of days to kill off any diseases or stowaway insects. 
  • Label every seed variety as you collect it. You think you’ll remember, but if you’re like me you often forget how forgetful you are. 
  • Only store seeds that are fully dry, and store them in a cool place. 

Here are a few seeds you could be saving right now: 

  • Beans: Some of the easiest seed to save! Allow the pod to mature then dry out on the vine. When the dried pods rattle, bring them in, and remove seeds from pods. (Follow the same process for peas, sweet peas, and morning glories.)
  • Annual herbs: Dill and coriander produce flowers that turn to sprays of seeds. When they dry out, harvest and crumble off the seeds. Basil seeds are can be shaken out of mature flowers left to dry. Once flowers are starting to dry out, try cutting the flowers and finish the drying in a paper bag.  
  • Peppers: Remove the seeds from the pepper, then put them in a jar and add water. Skim off any floating seeds, then drain and spread the seeds on a plate or (ideally) a screen to dry. (This also works for zucchini, squash, melons, and pumpkin seeds, which benefit from being overripe.)
  • Tomatoes: These seeds are surrounded by a gelatinous sac, which means we need an extra step to break it down: scoop the seeds and all their gloop into a jar and add a little water. Cover with parchment paper or a loose lid. Let the mixture get nice and mouldy over two to five days. At that point, hold your breath (it doesn’t smell great), remove any floating seeds in with the mould, rinse the remaining seeds, and lay on a plate to dry. (This is also how you save cucumber and cucamelon seeds. Choose cucumbers that are hard and yellow — long past when you’d want to eat them.) 
  • Flower seeds: Right now there are lots of common flower seeds available to harvest: cut the head off a sunflower that’s formed seed (if the squirrels haven’t done it for you), scout the pale green brain-like nasturtium seeds beneath plants, pull off the closed fists of calendula seed heads or the spiky balls of cosmos once they’re dry. 

Saving seed is a great way to promote food security, preserve diversity, share with your community, and all the hopefulness of spring in mind. 

Questions about the Karma Seed Library? Email Jen!