Sunday, 26 June 2011

Save your own seeds - sweetcorn, tomatoes and peppers

Sweetcorn

Leave a couple of healthy and plump looking corns on a healthy and disease free plant for seeds. Cover your chosen cobs with paper bags and tie around the corn to prevent insects entering the bag. Remove the corns after allowing them to dry thoroughly, peel back the husks and hang somewhere, insect and rodent free, to dry completely. The seeds can be extracted by twisting the cob between your hands and picking out any remaining plant debris. Allow the seeds to dry for a few days before storing in a cool and dry place for up to two years.



Sweet Peppers and Chillies

Sweet peppers and chillies are both members of the same species.  Pepper flowers are self pollinating and will set fruit without any insect activity.  However, they will also cross readily and sweet peppers will happily cross with chillies.  You need to isolate your plants by around 50 metres from any other peppers or chillies growing nearby.

If you want to grow several varieties you could consider making an isolation cage to cover 3 or 4 plants.  This is easy to do and costs very little, especially if you can get hold of some old net curtain material.   

To save the seed, take peppers on your isolated plants which have ripened fully to their final colour (usually yellow or red).  Cut the peppers open carefully, and rub the seeds gently off of the 'core' onto a plate.  Wear rubber gloves to deseed chillies, as the chilli oil sticks to your fingers and is very hard to wash off. Dry the seeds in a warm but not hot place until they snap rather than bending and store in a cool and dark place. Capsicum and chilli seeds will keep for 5 years.

Tomatoes

Most modern varieties of tomato are self pollinating and will not cross.

To collect the seed, allow your tomatoes to ripen fully.  Then collect a few of each variety that you want to save seed from.  Slice them in half across the middle of the fruit, and squeeze the seeds and juice into a jar.  You then need to ferment this mixture for a few days - this removes the jelly-like coating on each seed, and also kills off many diseases that can be carried on the seeds. 


 To do this put the jar of seeds and juice in a reasonably warm place for 3 days, stirring the mixture twice a day.  It should develop a coating of mould and start to smell but after 3 days add plenty of water to the jar and stir well. The good seeds should sink to the bottom of the jar.


Gently pour off the top layer of mould and any seeds that float.  Then empty the good seeds into a sieve and wash them thoroughly under running water.  Shake off as much water as possible, and tip the sieve out onto glass plate (the seeds tend to stick to anything else).  Dry somewhere warm but not too hot, and out of direct sunlight.  Once they are completely dry, rub them off the plate and store in a cool dry place, where they should keep well for at least 3 years. 

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