Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cucumbers: How to Save Seeds

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a plant that grows pretty well here. Usually we have problems with bitterness when the weather gets hot in the late summer. We found a new variety that seems to not go bitter and tastes great. It is called Parade and is from Seed Saver's Exchange. We saved seeds last year, but luckily a few of the extra cucumbers started our cucumber patch before we planted the saved seed.

This is my method of saving cucumber seeds. I'd show you in pictures, but alas I don't have any of the vine ripened cucumbers to take pictures.

1. Plant at least six or more plants for cross pollination. These are outbreeding, so plant at least six to avoid the possibility of inbreeding depression.
2. Leave a cucumber or two on plant just about halfway through the season to ripen from the edible green to a bright squishy yellow. They may start to ferment on the vine, this is okay.
3. Take the squishy yellow overripe cucumber and squeeze out the seeds into a bowl or scoop them out if it still has structure.
4. dump it all in a sealable plastic freezer or sandwich bag seal it and leave it in a cupboard for 3-5 days to ferment. Don't forget about know what I mean.
5. After three days fill the bag with water, pour of the pulp, the good seeds should sink (don't pour out the seeds). Any unfertilized seeds should float and get poured out with the pulp. If you lose a few in the floating pulp, that is probably okay. You should have more seeds than you can plant. Refill the bag with water and pour off the remaining pulp a few more times. There should just be a bit of water remaining on the seeds.
6. Invert the plastic bag onto a glass plate to dry. Carefully pour or blot off any extra water to speed drying. Put the plate in an empty cupboard or cabinet out of the way.
7. Let them dry for at least a week and then test the dryness by breaking one of the seeds if they dry and show not evidence of dampness you can dry them for longer or put them into bead bags or old glass bottles for next year.

Note: Store seeds at room temperature or below out of direct sunlight and away from heaters. Basements or coldrooms are great places to store your seed collection. I just have mine in the bottom of a closet in a plastic tub. Lower should be cooler as heat rises. These should be relatively viable for about 5 years. You may be able to resuscitate the variety after that, but viability will probably be very low. Gibberellic acid may help sprout old seeds, but I haven't tried that yet.

You can also see the instructions and recomendations from the International Seed Saving Institute for saving cucumber seed.

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