Peppers are one of the most universally loved vegetables out there. They go with just about anything and they are simple enough to grow that just about anyone can plant them in a backyard garden or even in a small apartment window garden.
Most people enjoy the taste and health benefits of the bell pepper, which is one of the most common types of pepper out there. Even better, the bell pepper can be grown in just about any plant hardiness zone during the summer.
Of course, others enjoy growing habanero peppers, which tend to be a lot spicier than the bell pepper. There are even some ornamental peppers, which look similar to the bell pepper, that people like having around simply for the aesthetics.
Whether grown for agricultural or personal use, people seem to like to keep pepper seeds from the best of their crops to grow plants that are pretty, taste good, or have a particular spice for the coming years.
The good thing is that it is relatively easy to dry and save your pepper seeds for future use.
Why Would You Save Your Pepper Seeds?
Peppers and tomatoes in particular are great when it comes to saving seeds. Both of them are part of the nightshade family and both have pollinating flowers.
That means that they have the ideal traits to be a plant that can carry down through the generations through its own self-produced seeds.
The resulting plants of these seeds come from those plants that are pollinated using the pollen from other plants. Those plants are hybrids, and they could have a variety of traits to them.
Carrots, which are known as biennial crops, need at least a couple of growing seasons to set their seed properly and can be much more difficult to purposely save.
When you are saving seeds, try to go with open pollinated variations. Typically, self- or cross-pollinated varieties are better than hybrids.
The most common kind of open-pollinated varieties are heirlooms, while cross-pollinating plants are a little more difficult to replicate.
Cross-pollinating produce can be broccoli, beets, corn, carrots, cabbage, melon, cucumber, radish, onion, turnip, spinach, and pumpkin. These kinds of plants will have two sets of varied genes and they require a lot more distance between them so that they don’t cross pollinate.
Saving the seeds of self-pollinating vegetables such as eggplant, beans, peas, lettuce, and tomatoes can produce an offspring that is as close to the parent as possible, resulting in the best quality vegetables in future growing seasons.
Saving the Seeds
To get started, it is important to know that there are two techniques: hybrid seeding or self-pollinating seeds. Either way, the techniques for saving these seeds are much the same.
If you are saving seeds from a single desired variety instead of from a hybrid, make sure that you keep the varieties completely separated (like 300 to 1,600 feet) or pollinate them by hand using a small brush.
It is also a good idea to save the seeds of at least five different species just to give yourself a little bit of variety and buffer when you implement them later on. When the plants are growing, make sure that you identify the mature peppers when they begin to soften.
The optimal time to harvest your peppers for seeding purposes is about two weeks after they become edible. If the weather gets to the point where frost is starting to form, take the plant out of the ground and hang it in a dry, cool place.
This will allow the peppers to continue their maturation without having to contend with the freezing soil.
If you plan to collect the seeds during the harvesting period, make sure that you wear some kind of gloves to avoid any contact between your skin and the seeds. A lot of the pepper’s natural heat (which comes from capsaicin) exists not only in the seeds, but in the flesh of the pepper itself.
Carefully use a sharp knife to cut the top off of the pepper. After making your cut, twist the top of the pepper off and pull it out completely. If you do it right, the seeds should remain attached to the core which is attached to the top part of the pepper.
When you have safely removed the top, with the core and seeds intact, you will need to take the seeds off. After removing the seeds completely, give them a rinse and allow them the proper amount of time to dry.
Let them air dry using some kind of absorbable, porous paper such as coffee filters or newsprint; you’ll need to give them a few days to properly dry out. If you want to test to see if they are ready, you can snap them in half.
Should they snap cleanly, they are ready to store. If not, give them another day or so to fully dry. When you’re ready to store them, make sure that they go into a cool, dry area since properly stored seeds can last up to three years.
Tips for Storing Your Pepper Seeds
Now that the pepper seeds have been properly dried, it is time to store them for good. Make sure that your container is between 32 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit when you store the seeds; for this reason, a fridge is probably a fine option to go with.
Make sure that you keep the seeds stored in a jar and label them so that you know when they were originally placed into storage. There is nothing worse than assuming one date is correct only to find out that your food expired weeks or even months ago.
Another reason that you would want to label your seeds is to identify the different varieties. While there isn’t necessarily a danger to mixing up your seeds, it can be annoying to try to figure out which seeds are which later on down the line.
You can also keep silica gel nearby so that it absorbs the moisture and keeps the seeds from becoming wet and rotted out. If you don’t have silica gel, powdered milk will work in much the same way to keep your seeds dry; just use a tablespoon or two wrapped up in a piece of facial tissue or cheesecloth and tuck it inside the container with the seeds.
The powdered milk should work for at least six months or so to allow for proper long-term storage.
Should you not have a jar available, make sure that you store them in an airtight container. Plastic bags alone won’t work; make sure that you place the plastic bag within a Tupperware container for the additional layer of protection.
Any moisture that is allowed to permeate their storage container can cause them to rot and go bad, so just make sure that whatever option you choose, they are sealed tightly.
So long as you follow the basic rules – keep them in a cool, dry place and ensure that they are kept in an airtight container to keep any moisture from being able to permeate the seeds on the inside.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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