Tomatoes, and Cukes, and Peppers! Oh My!

My garden overfloweth, for the most part.  I did have to pull my winter squashes (spaghetti, acorn and pumpkin) because of squash beetles.  They had the plants decimated in two days (both rainy, so I wasn’t out in the garden). I fed them to the chickens (HA! That’s what they get for attacking my squashes!).

But other plants are thriving, like tomatoes, and after a slow start, cucumbers  (The bunnies liked my cucumber sprouts, and kept eating them every time they popped up).

Some of my tomato plants are adopted from the Politics of Food project my class studies.  The Baker Creek Seed Company provides us with open-pollinated, heirloom seeds as a backbone to the horticultural facet of the project.  We emphasize to the students that they need to label their plants when they transplant them.  But as teenagers are teenagers (and know everything, so consult one before he realizes he doesn’t know everything), many plants did not get labeled.  Nor did students take them home because they couldn’t be sure which plants belonged them.  The end result?  I have a few “mystery” tomato and pepper plants.

One of the pepper plants turned out to be a Chinese 5-color pepper (very zippy), and one a mini-bell (they are very cute little peppers).  I have a tomato plant that has something that looks like eggs hanging from it (do those get red? I have no idea), and one that is so compact, it looks like a two foot tall shrubbery.

The rest of the tomatoes and peppers, and all of the cucumbers are from seeds I saved.  So between using compost (heavily influenced by chicken muck), saving seeds, and using seed starting equipment recycled from last year, my only financial outlay for the garden this year was seed starting medium.

How did I save seeds?

Peppers are easy.  Leave one pepper on the plant until it is super ripe and starts to get a little soft.  Cut the pepper in half, scoop out the seeds and let them dry.  Do not put them away until they are completely dry.  I wrapped different cultivars in pieces of paper and then put all of the pepper seeds in one big envelope.

The first year I tried to save cucumber and tomato seeds, I simply washed the seeds in  sieve and then let them dry on paper towels.  When I planted that set of seeds, I had about a 50% germination rate, which I thought was pretty good for a first try, and not knowing anything about seeds saving.

After doing some research, I found that I should have “fermented” the seeds in order to remove a naturally occurring enzyme that coats the seeds to prevent them from sprouting too soon.  My method is simple:

  • Designate one fruit from the plant to be the seeds fruit.  Know that once you designate a fruit to let go for seed, the plant will not produce a lot of other fruit as it will be putting its energy into that fruit. I usually mark it with a piece of yarn to remind myself not to pick it.  Leave it on the vine until it is fully ripe and a little soft.
  • Once you harvest the fruit, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds.  Put the seeds in a glass jar with a little water (non-chlorinated).
  • Leave the seeds until they start to get moldy.  It doesn’t smell good. You will know when they are ready, because the healthy seeds will fall to the bottom and the bad seeds will be at the top with the mold.
  • Scoop the mold and bad seeds off the top.
  • Empty the seeds into a sieve and rinse thoroughly.
  • Let dry on towels until they are completely dry (this may take a few days).
  • Store in a cool DRY place.

Good Luck!