Top 5 – Vegetables for Seed Saving

I tend to grow most of my crops from seed rather than buying seedlings.  This is partially because I have far greater choice about varieties, partially because I know the plants have been well looked after from day one and partially (or should that be mostly) because I really like watching them grow.  What I don’t always do though is save my own seed.  This is for a variety of reasons.  Some crops take ages to produce seed, others cross too easily with other varieties and so it is too hard to predict what the offspring will be, and with others it is just too intricate a process to bother with.  There are exceptions though, there are crops which are particularly easy to save seed from.  These are my top 5:

Capsicums and Chillies

 Chillies & Capsicums – Chillies and Capsicums are probably my favourite crops to save seed from.  Whilst if you grow more than one variety you are far from guaranteed that they will produce offspring true to type I find they don’t actually cross as often as I think they will and if they do the results are generally interesting.  Saving the seed is particularly easy.  Simply scrape the seeds out of fully ripe chillies and leave to dry.  One of the biggest pluses about peppers is that because you generally eat the fruit fully ripe so there is no waste.  Eat the flesh and save the seeds.

Bean Seed

Beans – Saving seed from beans is simply a matter of leaving a few pods on the plant until they dry fully.  The seeds they produce are perfect for sowing the following year.  Whether you continue harvesting green beans from the plants while you are waiting for some to dry or leave all the pods to dry fully to use as dried beans you don’t have a load of unproductive plants sitting around in the garden purely to save seed from.

Curry leaf tree with berries

Curry Leaf Tree – I know this one is a little on the niche side but I do like a plant which saving seeds is simply a matter of pulling them off when they are ripe.  You can harvest leaves before, during and after harvesting seeds.  Basically the seed saving process is simply about grabbing the seeds as soon as they ripen and planting them pretty much straight away.  Curry Leaf Tree seed is generally hard to come by and in my understanding has a fairly short shelf life so saving your own is one of the only ways of propagating the plant from seed.

Lettuce boltingLettuce – I tend not to save seed from any plant that will occupy a large space in the garden for a long period while the seed ripens.  This rules out collecting seeds from crops like broccoli and silver beet because they are just to big for too long to justify the space.  Lettuce though occupies a much smaller space and the seed ripens quicker than many other plants which flower after the finish cropping.  Saving seed from lettuce is easy, seed is generally plentiful and given how often I sow lettuces it saves a reasonable amount of money to save my own.

Coriander and Parsley – I was tossing up between these two but given I save both for much the same reasons I thought I would include both.  Although I do actually save some seed from both, one of the main reasons I allow the plants to flower and the seed to mature is to allow the plants to self seed.  For some reason self seeded seedlings seem to do better than the ones I sow, they are stronger and generally happier in my experience.  This is particularly true of herbs I find.  Having said that I do actually save and sow seed of both, primarily because although self sown is usually best, nature doesn’t always plant things in the positions I want them.  The other bonus is that its nice to have things flowering in the garden.  The insects think so too.

Parsley flowering

They were my top 5.  What do you save seed from?

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31 Responses to Top 5 – Vegetables for Seed Saving

  1. Dave says:

    I would add tomatoes to my seed saving lit, at least the open-pollinated varieties that can be saved. In the past I have saved seed from everything on your list except curry leaf tree and parsley. Last year I saved arugula, kale, lettuce, sage, sunflower, okra and peppers.

    • Liz says:

      My rocket has been flowering for ages, and I suspect has self seeded everywhere but I don’t actually see the seed pods very often – I will have to keep an eye out for them.

  2. Roger Brook says:

    I too let my parsley and coriander self seed, although with the dreadful cold Spring we are having in the UK I do not see them germinating anytime soon!
    For me the beauty of coriander self seeding is that I can find some for the kitchen right through the summer. If I make special sowings their maturity never seems to coincide with the cook’s needs! ( I tend to refer to Brenda – who is really the boss- in such endearing terms on my own blog)

    • Liz says:

      I wish I could grow coriander over Summer here but unfortunately it rebels and bolt immediately, and I do mean immediately – there is virtually no harvesting window whatsoever.

  3. Michelle says:

    Our seed saving philosophy seems to be quite similar, I generally don’t save seeds from crops that take up too much space in the garden or that require extra special care to prevent crossing. My list is pretty similar – peppers, tomatoes on occasion, coriander & parsley & chervil, lettuce on occasion, mache/cornsalad, and definitely beans of all sorts. I’ve also saved snap and snow peas in the past but don’t generally because they take up too much real estate in the summer garden.

    • Liz says:

      So far my chervil has self seeded in convenient places so I’ve never had to sow any seed – I should make an effort to collect some though as this may of course change….

  4. We don’t save seed although we do leave some thing in to self seed but that is mainly flowers.

  5. flowerlady says:

    I save the same as you but also tomatoes and radish along with quite a few different flowers.I love saving the seed as much as sowing and watching then to see the seed growing

  6. Sarah says:

    I love the idea of saving seed, from my own plants and from friends’ gardens if I can! But I’ve never saved lettuce seed – it’s on the list for this year, if we get a summer good enough for seed production…

    • Liz says:

      Even the worst British summer should produce viable lettuce seed I would have thought – my plants bolt in early Spring quite often here and it aint that warm here then.

  7. Frogdancer says:

    How do you grow coriander? I’ve tried several times and it always bolts instantly. I’m in the same city as you, though on the other side, and so we should both be able to grow it. So what is your secret, oh wise one?

    I saved seed last year from my basil plants and gave heaps away to people who all had great success. Pity I let the year go by before I thought of planting much myself… Hopefully my seeds will be viable come Spring this year.

    • Liz says:

      The simple answer is over winter and early Spring. Any other time of the year and I have exactly the problem you mentioned above. I just sowed some seed and which i’m hoping will produce a crop. Seed sowed over winter under warmth usually produces a good crop in early Spring in my experience. I’ve never collected seed from basil – I might leave a plant in this year and do just that – having said that I seem to have a lot of Basil seed in my box at the moment.

  8. Daphne says:

    Dill, coriander, lettuce, peas, beans. So it is very close to your list.

  9. rosblogger says:

    My first year/time of saving seeds. I saved tomato, long yellow capsicum and cayenne chilli. Never thought about saving lettuce seeds so may let a couple go to seed now.

  10. I did like this post being fairly new to seed saving. I don’t have much idea about what takes a long time to seed and this year I let my silverbeet go to seed and it took AGES. But I did collect a lot of it. And a few weeks later I discovered masses of little silverbeet seedlings everywhere too. I am waiting for some lettuces to seed at the moment. I have done beans and chilli too. The parsley self seeds and sometimes dill. But I never manage a successful crop of coriander. Must remember to collect the capsicum and broad beans this time. Would love you to post more about saving seed – I never know when it’s quite ready.

    • Liz says:

      I was planning a post on saving cucumber seed soon. In terms of never knowing when its ready – I tend to follow the basic rule that:
      if the seed is inside a fruit the fruit needs to be pretty much as ripe as it can get – with peppers and tomatoes this means red, with things such as cucumber, eggplants etc this tend to be when they yellow – ie beyond the stage we normally eat them. With crops that you collect the seed after flowering eg lettuce, silver beet, beans etc then you usually collect seed when either it or the pod it is in has dried out.

  11. foodnstuff says:

    Pretty much the same as you but not coriander, because I don’t like/grow it. Tomatoes are a must, though and dill, because I use it in preserving and most supermarkets don’t seem to carry it.

    I save seed of most things, especially seed I’ve originally bought, because I’m hoping that what grows will be more adapted to my garden conditions than where it was grown originally and get even better adapted as the years go by.

    Self-sown are always the best. They have to be in my garden, to survive blackbirds pulling them up and rabbits munching them to ground level.

    Veggiegobbler’s comment about never knowing when seed is mature, has given me ideas for a subsequent post at my blog, too. Thanks VG!

    • Liz says:

      I struggle, or actually dill always struggles in my garden. It does go on to produce viable seed sometimes but mostly it dies before that point. I must experiment with a few different growing methods and see what works best for me.

  12. Nina says:

    That was sad! I just lost my post. I’ll see if I can reproduce it. 🙂

    Apart from what you and others have saved, I also saved some purple carrots. One hid in the bed so I let it turn to seed – it was MASSIVE! I haven’t planted any myself – sigh – but Louise over at GardenGlut has so I’ll be interested to see if they are viable. I took your advice and only harvested from the main heads.

    I’m interested to know what conditions you keep your curry leaf tree in. In a pot? In the garden? Sun? Shade? Mine is in a pot (I recently re-potted) in a shaded, sheltered spot and it seems very healthy but it hasn’t grown enormously, nor has it produced berries. I try not to use it too much so as not to weaken it. I love it and I’d be thrilled to try to grow more from berries.

  13. Bek says:

    I also save seed from beans, lettuce and parsley, but I’ve never tried capsicums/chillies. The curry leaf tree also intrigues me. I also save seed from beetroot, carrot, radish, peas, broccoli , pumpkin and kale. But only one plant from each type is more than enough for me and whoever I can fob them off onto. I keep wanting to try tomatoes, but I seem to eat them all, seeds included.

    • Liz says:

      I’ve tried to save broccoli seed that is one plant where I invariably get too impatient and pull it to make way for other crops. I do like saving carrot seed – the flowers are great.

  14. bumblelush says:

    We save pepper and tomato seeds, and last summer grew a “second generation” Anaheim pepper plant from seeds we had saved. It’s such a benefit to know that those seeds will produce food that do well in your particular micro-climate.

  15. I mostly save seed from tomatoes, peppers, okra, lettuce, and winter squash. The self-seeded radishes and lettuce always come up in nice big swaths in the fall.

  16. Diana says:

    I like to let herbs go to seeds for volunteers. So I don’t have to spend time to babysit them…hehehehe…
    The quickest way to save bean seeds is growing them in mid-late summer and then let the heat wave or summer quickly dried the beans.

  17. Thanks so much for the chilli seeds! I can’t wait to get them in some pots! We’re going to grow some in our lounge room. These all look so easy, thanks for the tips!

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