All throughout the summer we have been keeping produce picked as it is ready—both for the enjoyment of the fresh vegetables and to encourage the plants to continue producing. But now as the gardens wind down and production slows, it is a good idea to let a few varieties go to seed to save for next year’s harvest. It’s easy and you will be able to enjoy the same varieties again and again.

wax beans

Good choices for seed saving are beans, peas, tomatoes, winter squash (though cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins are “promiscuous” and will cross-pollinate with other varieties and you cannot be certain of what you will get), pumpkins, melons, heirloom tomatoes, dill and pak choi, and a number of annual, biennial and perennial flowers.

For most varieties seed saving is as simple as letting seed pods form and “ripen” completely. For beans and peas, just let them stay on the vine until they are dry and brown. Harvest seed pods when dry and shell or shake them out into clean envelopes or containers. Label with variety and date, and store in the freezer. Those varieties such as squash or tomatoes will require completely ripe vegetables. Remove seeds, place seeds in a colander or strainer and wash thoroughly. Spread seeds on brown paper or paper towels and allow to dry completely before storing.

By doing this you are following in the path of many gardeners before you, folks who have helped to preserve

nigella seed pods

many heirloom varieties that could have been lost forever. And in the process you will be saving more than a few pennies in the bargain. It couldn’t be more simple.