Cucumber seed collection: Tips for harvesting and storing cucumber seeds

There is currently a fabulous collection of relic seeds which is the direct result of the foresight (I economy) of our great-great-grandparents to preserve the seeds of each growing season. Seed saving is rewarding and saves costs for the hobby gardener, but some seeds require a little more care than others. Collecting cucumber seeds, for example, requires some knowledge.

Saving cucumber seeds, yes or no?

Well, yes and no. Saving cucumber seeds is quite feasible if you consider a few points.

First of all, don’t try to harvest the seeds of a cucumber labeled as a hybrid. Hybrids are created by crossing specific parent plants selected for exceptional character, but the saved seeds of these plants will not reproduce a true copy of the parent plant and, in fact, are often sterile.

Secondly, as the cucumber needs either pollinating insects, wind or humans to transfer its pollen from one plant to another, it is left free to reproduce with other members of its family. As a result, you may end up with an odd mixture of cucumber crosses when you collect cucumber seeds. You should isolate the plant whose seeds you want to save by planting it well away from its cousins, which is not always practical for the modest grounds of the average hobby gardener.

Finally, seeds can transmit certain diseases, so make sure that when you save the cucumber seeds, no disease has infected the crop you are trying to harvest.

Harvesting cucumber seeds

All that being said, I say that gardening is an experience, so why not give it a try? Choose cucumber varieties to save seeds that are less likely to need to be isolated due to open pollination; these include Armenian cucumbers, West Indian gherkins and snapping squash that belong to different families and do not cross-breed. Grow only one variety, or set it aside for half a mile to eliminate the possibility of cross-pollination.

For optimal cucumber seed collection, choose from the only disease-free plants that have the tastiest fruit. The seed should be harvested when the fruit is ripe, so that the cucumber can languish on the vine beyond its eating stage – towards the end of the growing season. The fruit will be orange or yellow when it is fully ripe and ready to take out the ripe seeds.

To harvest the seeds of fleshy fruits such as cucumber or tomato, the wet extraction method must be applied. The seeds are removed and left to ferment in a bucket for three days with a small amount of hot water to remove the frost layer around the seeds. Stir this mixture daily. This fermentation process kills viruses and separates the good seeds from the bad seeds and pulp. The good seeds will sink to the bottom while the bad seeds and pulp will float to the surface. Carefully pour in the pulp, water, mould and bad seeds after the three days. Remove the good seeds and spread them on a screen or paper towels to dry completely.

Once completely dried, your seeds can be stored in envelopes or in a glass jar with a clear label indicating the date and variety. Place the container in the freezer for two days to kill any residual pests, then store them in a cool, dry place such as the refrigerator. Seed viability decreases over time, so be sure to use the seed within the next three years.

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