I collect all of my own seeds, from all of my own heirloom varieties, and have been doing so for a long, long time. On occasion, I buy newly available varieties that I don't have, from a reputable seed source, like The Seed Guy , but their are many seed providers available to you via the Internet, so use who you think is the best.
Collecting some types of vegetable seeds is an easy process. Some plants make it so simple for you to collect their seed, that you could easily end up with hundreds, if not thousands of seeds from just a few minutes of collecting. Some, on the other hand, require a little more work on your part to extract the seed from sources like cucumbers, melons and squashes. Never fear, however, it is all worth it!
It is always best to collect seeds from what are called heirloom varieties, because they will carry all of the same traits as what you planted last year. YES! sometimes you can plant seeds from vegetables that you buy from the produce section at the local market, but you risk things like the fact that the seed may not be disease resistant, you may not get the same quality of fruit or vegetable, or you may not even get a yield at all. These are important things for you to consider before you waste your time.
Look at these zucchini seeds drying out on a paper towel and cookie sheet. At the end of your growing season, for this plant, let one zucchini grow to at least 18" long. It's okay if it is bigger and it may get as big as 8"-12" in diameter by that time. The seeds need to be scooped out of the fleshy part of this squash, rinsed and dried. Typically, I use paper towel and a cookie sheet, but sometimes seeds like watermelon stick to the paper towel if you don't get them rinsed well enough.
Let them dry out for at least a few days before you package them up for storage. I just use a zip type baggie and with a permanent marker, write the name of the veggie and the year I collected them. You can save them in one of many kinds of storage containers, like small mason jars or old spice jars.
Dealing with the fleshy, gooey part of a fruit or veggie to extract the seeds for next season is sometimes a real pain, but there are ways to make it a little easier. Some folks put the gooey part of a tomato that surrounds the seeds, as an example, in a mason jar with it half full of water. They will keep it in the jar for as much as a week, shaking the jar at least once each day to help loosen the goo around the seeds. Then, they just pour the contents of the jar into a strainer, rinse, and then place the seeds on a paper towel to dry. These tomato seeds were collected this way.
You can collect some seeds directly off of the mature or dying plant. These coriander seeds come from a cilantro plant. I collected all of the cilantro that I would be dehydrating for the season, then I let the plant grow normally until it started to die back. Once the seeds were dry on the plant, I pulled several branches together and broke them off into a large paper shopping bag. I shook the branches until all of the seed fell into the bag. I cleaned out all of the dried debris and bagged up the seeds
Sometimes a squash or melon produce a lot of seed. These cantaloupe seeds below are from just four melons. They require a little more work, but look at the result and the benefits. I usually let these harder shelled seeds dry out for a longer period of time prior to bagging them up to avoid the risk of mold.
It's always nice to get seeds in the mail from a fellow gardener, especially when it is a fruit or vegetable that you currently do not grow. One day, I received several small seed packets, from a Facebook friend, of different varieties of things I already grow, but she had included a little surprise. She had sent me a "Hopi" squash.
These squash get big (I grew one from her seed that reached 32 pounds) and gray with a deep and rich orange colored flesh, and boy do they taste good. The seeds are very big and puffy. So, needless to say, I collected the seed, enjoyed the squash, and will be planting this variety of squash for years to come.
So, you see the importance, if not the necessity, of planting heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetables in your garden, so that you can collect the seed, save some money and share them with friends and family. Why don't you get started as soon as you can? I'm sure you will enjoy doing it as much as I do. There is so much more to learn about seed collecting, heirloom varieties and vegetable gardening that just can't be included in this article, but the good thing is that we all have this little friend called "Google" so have fun searching and learning!