Saving seeds is the number one best way to ensure your own future food security and an ecologically diverse planet. It is one of the most rewarding tasks, because it saves you money and provides food for you and your family. It creates a sustainable food source that can reap benefits for life.

If you have fertile seeds, you really only need to save some from each garden crop or piece of produce you purchase a few times. For instance, if you have a tomato garden, you can save the seeds for only a few years to be set for a lifetime of hearty harvests. If you buy a lot of bell, hot or other peppers, simply take some seeds out upon cutting into the vegetable. Dry those seeds in an open container and then seal it shut.

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You only need to have a few peppers to obtain one year’s worth of seeds. Plus, remember each plant you grow will also provide you with seeds for the next season. Even if you aren’t interested in growing food, you can save seeds and donate them to seed banks; this is essential to protect and replenish food crop varieties that modern agriculture’s monocultures and toxic chemical inputs have destroyed. Interested in learning more? Here are some of the top tips for seed saving common herbs and other food crops found in the garden or your local grocery store.

1. Saving Herb Seeds from Plants Like Basil and Peppermint

After fragrant herbs like basil and peppermint flower, they will produce seeds from under the flower pods. These seeds will start off bright white and alter in color as they mature. For instance, basil seeds will turn a deep blue before they’re ready for picking. Always be patient to wait for the seed to fully mature before harvesting or they may not germinate later. Picking tip: simply grab the base of one of the flower pods and turn the stem upside down to expose the seed pods. Be careful not to break the stem. Gently grab each seed and place into a dry, sterile container until you’re ready to sow.

2. Saving Seeds from Vegetables like Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Peppers

When cut into, vegetables quickly expose their seeds. These seeds tend, on average, to be larger than herb seeds, making them much easier to pick out and save. Plus, you’re cutting into the vegetable anyway and typically either eating or tossing away the viable seed. Next time, do yourself, your garden and the planet a favor by just picking out the seeds, drying them and saving them for sowing. For peppers, simply run your fingers alongside the seeded walls, making sure to be dropping the seeds into a clean, dry container. For seeds enclosed in gels, like tomatoes, wash gently before setting aside to dry.

3. Saving Seeds From Fruits Like Apples, Oranges and Lemons

Fruits with pea-sized seeds are the easiest when it comes to picking, drying and storing. These seeds are large enough not to stick together, but small enough not to require extra care. Simply pick out the apple, orange or lemon seeds and toss them into an open, clean container. Let them sit and dry for several days or until the seeds look slightly wrinkled. Then, put a lid on the container and store until you’re ready to sow.

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Saving seeds is an easy task with huge benefits. You’re eating the produce anyway, right? Why not save a few seeds and money along the way? For more on specific techniques, check here. Not interested in growing your own food? No problem. Toss food seeds everywhere or give seeds as gifts in nice organza bags or boxes.

Image source: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr