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Friday, 24 June 2011

Save your own seeds - melons and cucumbers

All varieties of melon will cross but cucumbers won't cross with melons, but will cross with any other cucumbers or gherkins nearby.  It is possible, although fiddly, to hand pollinate both melons and cucumber flowers.  Grow plants under a fleece tunnel to exclude insects, and then hand pollinate the flowers on those plants with a paintbrush.  Make sure that you exchange pollen between different plants to keep the diversity of your variety. 

To harvest melon seed, pick the melons when they are ripe and ready for eating and keep indoors for a further day or two for the seed to mature further.  Then open the fruit, scoop the seed out, and wash in a sieve under running water.  Spread out on a plate to dry thoroughly. 
Cucumbers need to be ripened well beyond the edible stage.  They will become much fatter with green varieties will turn a dark yellow brownish colour and white varieties a paler yellow.  Keep for a week or so after picking to let the seeds mature fully.    Then cut open, scoop out the seeds and surrounding pulp into a jar, add a little water and stir well.  Leave  the jar on a sunny windowsill for 2-3 days for the seeds to ferment.  On the third day, fill the jar fully with water, and stir well again.  The good seeds should sink to the bottom of the jar, leaving pulp, debris and empty seeds floating on top.  Gently pour off the water and debris, refill the jar and repeat.  After a couple of rinses you should be left with good seeds at the bottom of a jar in clean water.  Drain off the water and spread out on a plate to dry well.

Both melon and cucumber seeds will last for 6  years if dried well and stored somewhere cool. 

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