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Seed Lending Library: Saving Specific Seeds

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Here you'll find specific information on harvesting and storing your seeds. Currently, we only have information on the plants that are available through the Seed Lending Library, but as we grow, we'll add more!

If you want more information, be sure to check out the Seed Saving Guide, linked below.


Common name: Lettuce
Family: Compositae (or Asteraceae)
Life cycle: Annual

Seeding: If you are growing a variety of head lettuce, cut a slit across the top to allow seed stalks to emerge. Non-heading varieties will bolt and flower on their own at the end of the season.

Harvesting: Lettuce seeds mature 12-24 days after flowering. Harvest them in the garden by gently shaking seed heads over a container. Mature seeds will fall off, leaving the rest on the plant to continue to mature. Continue to harvest them daily. An alternate method is to pull the plants up when most of the seeds are mature, harvest those that are ready, and hang the plants upside-down over a container until the remaining seeds dry and fall off.

Storing: Lettuce seeds will last up to three years in proper storage.


Common name: Tomato
Family: Solanaceae
Life cycle: Annual

Seeding: Tomato seeds are mature when you pick the fruit for eating.

Harvesting: Tomato seeds have a gel coating that contains chemicals which prevent the seeds from germinating inside the wet fruit. Fermentation is required to break down this seed coat. Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp into a glass container. Smaller varieties such as cherry tomatoes can be mashed instead. Continue the fermentation process (see Fermentation, under "Saving & Returning Your Seeds"). Once they have been fermented, clean and dry the seeds for storage.

Storage: Tomato seeds should last for 4-10 years in storage.


Common name: Bean
Leguminosae (or Fabaceae)
Life cycle: Annual

Seeding: When harvesting for eating, leave no more than one or two pods per plant to mature. Allow the pods to dry completely on the plant if possible. If the weather will be wet, cut stalks at the base or pull up the whole plant and hang under cover until dry (wet pods will likely mildew or seeds inside will begin to sprout). Pods will crack and shatter when fully dry.

Harvesting: To shell small quantities of dried beans, place plants in a clean pillowcase, tie the end closed, and tread on it for a few minutes. This should break the pods, allowing the seeds to fall free. Once seeds are loose, remove the larger debris by hand. Remaining chaff can be screened and winnowed off. Remove any off-type or moldy seeds from the harvest.

Storing: Bean seeds will store for up to four years.


Common name: Eggplant
Family: Solanaceae
Life cycle: Annual

Seeding: Leave eggplants in the garden long after you would harvest them for eating to allow them to mature. When ready, purple-colored varieties will turn brownish, and lighter varieties will turn yellowish.

Harvesting: Cut the fruit into sections and put them in a blender with some water. Blend on the lowest setting until the viable seeds begin to sink to the bottom of the mixture. Pour off the pulp and immature seeds that float. Clean and dry the remaining seeds.

Storing: Eggplant seeds will store for 5-7 years.


Common name: Pea
Family: Leguminosae (or Fabaceae)
Life cycle: Annual

Seeding: Leave some pea pods on the vine to dry, which usually begins around mid-July. Make sure that after rain or damp weather that they don’t begin to mold. The pods and peas inside should grow to full, plump size before they dry out completely.

Harvesting: Pick dry pods off the vine or pull up the whole plants. Shell them by hand or thresh them by flailing or treading. Screen and winnow away the  crumbled pods and other debris.

Storage: Peas last for up to three years in storage