Are you a fan of sweet bell peppers or spicy, hot Habanero peppers? Then I’ve got good news for you: you can easily save their seeds and grow more in your garden in 4 simple steps!
Here’s how you can get started:
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Table of contents
- 1. Choose Ripe & Healthy Peppers
- 2. Slice the Peppers to Collect the Mature Seeds
- 3. Dry the Seeds on a Plate For a Week or Until They Break in Half Easily
- 4. Store the Pepper Seeds in an Airtight Container for Future Planting
- Final Note
1. Choose Ripe & Healthy Peppers
a. The pepper must be an heirloom or open-pollinated variety, not a hybrid (F1) variety (grocery store produce) if you want the same type of pepper to grow from the seed. If you like surprises, on the other hand, feel free to give the hybrid varieties a try! You can grow any pepper with this method.
Heirloom peppers stay true to the original fruit, passing the same genetics down each generation. Strict gardening and farming practices ensure they don’t cross-pollinate with other varieties and produce different pepper fruits.
Seeds from open-pollinated peppers have a slight variation to the parent pepper plants. This is because they are naturally pollinated by insects with other pepper fruits. So don’t be surprised if your freshly grown pepper batch comes out just a tad bit different from the original one.
Note: You’re unlikely to find these in grocery stores. You’ll have more luck finding them at a farmers’ market instead. Not to mention, the local gardeners may even give you some helpful tips on growing your own batch from theirs!
On the other hand, hybrid (F1) pepper seeds will give you something completely new, far from the actual pepper you started with. Hybrid peppers are hand-pollinated by humans with two different pepper varieties to produce a superior pepper containing both of their best traits. But this is often only achievable in the first pepper generation. Afterward, it may revert back to one of the parent pepper plants or result in an inferior pepper.
Note: Hybrid (F1) peppers are present in most, if not all grocery stores. They always look identical and uniform, as opposed to their heirloom and open-pollinated counterparts that come in various shapes and sizes. You can still try planting the seeds but again, don’t expect it to look just like the one you bought.
b. The pepper must be fully ripe.
The quickest way to tell if a pepper has matured is to give a slight squeeze. It should be an easy give with little to no crisp crunch and fleshy to the touch. Most peppers turn red when they ripen, even Jalapenos. But a few mature to yellow or orange only, such as Golden Calwonder peppers.
Peppers left on the vine longer to ripen have more mature seeds and they are more likely to germinate. You should start with more seeds for attempting germination if you are using young green peppers for this reason.
c. The pepper must be healthy; free of pests and diseases.
This is a semi-obvious one, but it still needs to be said. One of the worst things that can happen to your future crop is a pest or disease problem being carried from the parent plant. If you think the pepper you have came from a sickly or infected plant, discard the seeds and get new ones from a healthy plant. Save yourself the time you may have spent on raising a bad batch of pepper plants.
2. Slice the Peppers to Collect the Mature Seeds
There are 2 ways you can do this:
A. Slice the pepper lengthwise and gently scoop the seeds out with your finger or cutlery onto a flat surface like a plate.
B. Cut a cross-section of the pepper and gently roll the top section above a plate to squeeze the seeds out.
Note: If you’re cutting/slicing a hot pepper, make sure to use gloves and avoid touching your eyes!
You can use a paper towel or dish to catch the seeds but make sure to transfer them onto a ceramic or plastic plate afterward. Otherwise, the seeds end up sticking to the paper, making it a nuisance to remove them.
Ensure to separate out any bad seeds like brown seeds or seeds that have black spots on them. The seeds should be off-white, while young seeds are often white and shiny.
3. Dry the Seeds on a Plate For a Week or Until They Break in Half Easily
Here are a few things to do while drying your seeds:
- Keep them away from direct sunlight.
- Ensure they are in a well-ventilated room.
- Turn the seeds over every other day to ensure both sides are thoroughly dried up.
The seeds should be ready for storage once they break in half easily when you press your fingernail into them (make sure you wash your hands after especially if it’s a hot pepper). However, if the seed feels spongey and only bends, then that means it needs more time to dry.
Should pepper seeds be dried out before planting?
As a whole, peppers seeds can be immediately planted upon harvesting without prior drying. The drying process is only necessary for storage if the seeds are not going to be planted immediately.
4. Store the Pepper Seeds in an Airtight Container for Future Planting
Here are a few tips on how to store your dried seeds:
- Ensure to put a label with the pepper variety and the date you collected the seeds. Trust me, that little bit of information will help you in the future, seeds can keep for 2-4 years but the germination rate decreases over time.
- If you’re collecting many seeds, place them in an airtight glass jar with silica gel in the packet to prevent moisture.
- If you’re saving just a little bit of seeds, use small paper envelopes with labels on them and tuck them away from sunlight exposure.
- You can place the seed container or jar in the fridge but avoid using plastic vessels. Moisture tends to condense inside plastic jars or containers, which will rot your seeds.
When you’re ready to plant them, make sure to run them through a small test. Plant about 10 seeds in a small container with moist soil and leave it for a week, misting the soil regularly. For example: If less than 5 seeds sprouted, that means that’s less than 50% germination rate. Solution: save/use more seeds to ensure you get more thriving pepper sprouts to grow.
Can seeds from peppers be saved and stored for planting next year?
Pepper seeds can last for as long as 2-4 years but do note that the germination rate decreases the longer time passes. When in doubt, always add 3-4 seeds per planting spot for germination to ensure several sprouts for growing.
And just like that, you’ve started your seed-saving journey! In no time at all, you’ll probably have more seed packets than you can plant. Such is the life of a flourishing home gardener. Happy planting!
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