One of the most useful techniques a gardener has in their tool bag is reusing seeds between seasons. Not only do you save massive amounts of money, but seed saving gives you the power to pick and choose the best of your crop to reproduce the next year.
In fact, that’s how this whole process gets started!
During the harvest season, choose one of your favorite butternut squash or zucchini or tomatoes, and select that veggie or fruit to dry the seeds from. This does take some planning, but once you get the process down, it’ll be like second nature.
Now it’s time to dry!
For those that are beginners or are looking for the least hassle method, simply go with air drying. Go ahead and collect those wonderful seeds, wash off the “slime” carefully, and spread them in a single layer on a “coffee filter, wax paper, or a fine window screen laid on a flat surface in a dry, cool room.” Allow the seeds to dry for “a week to ten days before gently stirring them with your finger or a small spoon.” Give them another “two to three weeks” and then pick a storage method.
Second up is also the second easiest option, paper bag drying! For this method, “harvest the entire flower head or stalk soon after the flowers are spent,” and “put the flower stalk into a brown paper bag, top end first, allowing the cut stem end to stick out of the bag’s opening.” Make sure your paper bag is stored in a dry, cool place for two to three weeks. Once the stem is fully dried, “pull the seeds out of the dead flower head or seed capsule.” Leave the seeds at the bottom of the bag and let the open bag to sit “for another two to three weeks.”
Lastly, the silica gel drying method! This method takes the most tools, yet is the quickest, therefore it may be best for those living in a small space that can’t leave their seeds drying for weeks. First off, silica gel “is a granular substance that pulls and absorbs moisture from the air.” To begin, collect glass screw-top jars to be ready. Weigh your seeds and “place the same amount by weight of silica gel into the bottom” of your prepped jars. Separate the silica gel and the seeds with a small piece of screening, with gel on the bottom and seeds on the top. Seal the jars for “7 to 10 days.”
Choose your method and then choose the best tools to help you achieve your seed drying for next season! Here are some tools to get you started.
Whether you’re air-drying, paper bag drying, or silica gel drying, in the end you’ll always need a dry, dark, safe place to store your precious seeds. These Proterra Self Sealing Seed Envelopes are 4.50 inches tall and 3.25 inches wide with a 1/2 inch opening giving you ample storage space. These baggies use green self-sealing adhesive glue and are designed for the smallest of seeds to be stored safely. A set of 50 envelopes costs $9.85.
GardenMom says “These envelopes are perfect for seed collectors, they are self-sealing, yet you can open them up to add more if needed and they will reseal. They are a perfect size for storing and the paper is ideal for airflow with seed storage. I do garden workshops for San Francisco and seed saving, sharing and collecting are part of what I teach, these were ideal and I’d highly recommend them! You can also personalize them by doing art on them for the labels, FYI.”
Obviously, this silica gel goes hand-in-hand with the silica drying method, if that’s your cup of tea! These Wisedry Silica Gel Beads are reusable meaning buying in bulk won’t cost you in the end. Plus, these silica gel beads change color based on humidity allowing you to track when they’re fully saturated. Wisedry uses premium silica gel crystals with high moisture absorption up to 25% of its own weight. A bulk 5-pound container costs $29.99.
Yes says “Love it. Haven’t seen the color change yet. It comes with a lot of bags, which work adequately. I use a hefty amount, probably around 500-700 grams, for my 3D printing filaments. I purchased reusable vacuum sealed bags for clothes, toss one or two of those in with a humidity sensor and 5 rolls of nylon, and seal it up. Won’t need to recharge them for a while since it’s vacuum-sealed, and I only open the bags once or so every week. I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed of being excited to see a 5lb bin of silica beads come in the mail. However, it means that all of my expensive nylon filaments will be nice and dry.
Your tools will depend on the method you follow. If you’re going with the silica gel drying method, then you’ll need a mesh of some sort in order to separate the silica from the seeds. This TIMESETL 304 Stainless Steel Woven Wire Mesh offers a very durable screen to keep those seeds from mixing with the silica gel beads. This mesh is made from high-quality, long-lasting, no corrosion, no rust, strong industry stainless steel.A 12 inch by 24 inch roll costs $8.99.
Chris T. says “I used this screening to cover inlet holes on a plastic 5-gallon pail that housed a sump pump.
This set up prevented debris from surrounding the pump and hindering the float from falling to shut the pump off. The SS screen worked just as I had hoped it would. Very satisfied.”
These may be marketed as seed bags, but these paper bags are also great for the paper bag drying method. Plus, when they’re done drying you can also store them in the same (or a clean) bag! This LEORX Kraft Paper Seed Bags Food Storage Bags are perfect for bag drying your seeds! They’re approximately 12 by 8 centimeters offering ample space to spread your seeds without touching. A 1000-piece box costs a whopping $9.89.
Brain Wars says “At first when I received these I wasn’t impressed. BUT I WAS WRONG. Easy to write on, seems to help seeds dry fast, I will order again for 2017.”
Another tool you’ll need in your arsenal for the silica gell drying method! Yet, when it comes to choosing your jars, make sure you don’t go too big or too small, which makes these adorable little yogurt jars the perfect goldilocks pick! These Brajittt Mini Yogurt Jars offer ample space with 7-ounce bellies, 2.8 inches wide, and 3.4 inches high. The lids are food-safe with corrosion-resistant lids. A 30-pack of 7-ounce jars costs only $25.99.
Alexia Hines says “LOVE THESE. I love the size and the sturdiness of the glass. Most of the corks stay in fine if you push em down hard enough. Some dont really like to stay in but I honestly haven’t had much of an issue with it. I use these for my dried herbs, bath salt soaks, and gifts. They’re a great size and are so stinkin cute – it’s a great deal for the price you pay. I will most definitely be buying these in the future.”
Even the simplest of seed drying techniques take a tool or two. When air drying, instead of using a paper towel or newspaper, which can cause massive frustrations, later on, try using a coffee filter. These Bolio Reusable Organic Hemp Square Coffee Filters are not only eco-friendly and 100 percent organic, but they’re also highly durable for reusability. Hemp is stronger than cotton, naturally mildew and bacteria-resistant, and easy to clean. A 3-pack of reusable filters costs $23.99.
RBP says “Was hesitant to use at first, but it’s great. Super easy to use, leaves no weird flavor. I’ve been a barista for 12 years and have specific taste buds. I rinsed it thoroughly w/ hot water before my first use since I was wary that it would make my coffee taste like fabric. After I make my coffee I just move my pour-over to a draining cup I have in front of my kitchen window and when I come home at night I empty the dried grounds into the trash and don’t even have to wash it out.”
When seeking a material to dry your seeds on, it’s best to go with a coffee filter, mesh, or wax paper. Yet, be careful what you choose. Many wax paper companies use either beeswax or a petroleum-based product to create that wax. That’s what makes this MizTag Homewares 100% Plant-Based Reusable Wax NO Beeswax so great! Not only are they reusable, but MizTag uses 100 percent plant-based ingredients, such as soybean, to create the wax covering. These are vegan-friendly, multipurpose, versatile, and encourage zero-waste in the kitchen! A 3-pack costs $15.00.
Cristina says “I’m so excited [about] these wraps. The design is super cute and I really like that they are vegan. I used them today for the first time and the PBJ stayed fresh and jelly didn’t go [through] like the paper towels. The cleanup was easy as well. Just a quick rinse and done.”
If silica drying is your chosen method, then you’ll need a scale in order to properly figure out the amount of silica gel to seed. This Smart Weigh ZIP600 Ultra Slim Digital Pocket Scale is not only great for weighing those seeds but can also be super useful in the kitchen. This scale offers a maximum of 600 grams, an easy flip-open case for travel, and a modern touch screen. Plus, you get six different weight translations! One pocket scale costs $14.99.
Cassie says “I use this at home when cooking, and when serving to my plate. It is small enough to toss in my purse and use in restaurants to ensure I’m eating the proper serving, and box up the rest immediately to get it off my plate. The available settings makes it easy to account for portions in oz or kg, and allows for tare weight which deletes the weight of the bowl/plate from the total. I keep in the cover a few pieces of parchment paper cut to the size if the scale, to prevent accumulation of food scraps, so all it needs is a wipe with a damp cloth.”
Instead of using wire mesh for your silica gel jars, why not acquire a tool that can be used for both seed drying as well as nut cheese making! Cheesecloth is an incredibly useful tool in a vegan kitchen, from nut cheese to nut milk, cheesecloth is essential! Plus, it’s also an easier material for your seed drying. This Country Trading Co. Organic Unbleached Cotton Cheesecloth for Straining is certified organic, food-safe, and free of bleach, pesticides, child labor, and chemicals. This specific cheesecloth is great for seeds as its ultrafine. On top of all that, this cheesecloth is reusable, biodegradable, and seeks to promote zero-waste, plastic-free habits. An 18-square foot roll costs $12.91.
SusECap says “Wonderful product, great quality. Easy to cut little pieces off, wash with gentle soap, rinse, then use. I use it to strain kombucha as I pour it out of 2nd fermentation bottles. With some more densely-textured fruit flavorings (which have usually been puréed), it helps to wet it and then squeeze it out, so it’s damp, before using. Then it’s easy to simply rinse and let dry. It dries really quickly and can be used multiple times. It’s a very generous quantity. Have cut pieces off and shared them with friends. Now that I know what real cheesecloth is like, I never want to go back to the flimsy stuff I’ve used before. You’ll not regret this purchase.”
Another wax paper that you can feel good about using for drying those seeds of yours! This Source Atlantic Inc. If You Care All Natural Unbleached Waxed Paper is on the cheaper side, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in quality. If You Care uses soybean in order to provide that wax cover and is paraffin free! A 4-pack costs $26.00.
JKay says “Most brands of waxed paper are coated with petroleum-based paraffin wax. If You Care waxed paper is coated with sox-based wax, offering the benefit of being a renewable resource (and also nice that it’s plant-based rather than oil-based since it will be in direct contact with your food). The paper is made without chlorine bleaching, and is packed in a recycled cardboard box printed with vegetable-based inks and stuck together with non-toxic glue. It’s biodegradable and although not specifically certified for municipal or home composting I don’t see why it can’t be composted. It’s also vegan and not tested on animals. It’s more sustainable by a long shot compared to cling film.”
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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