How about beans?
I've been able to get started with several varieties by buying fresh vegetables at the farmer's market and saving seed from them. That's how I got my Habanero seeds.
If you go to the farmer's market and buy named varieties you know you can save the seed and eat the veggie! A twofer!
Usually, growers are more than happy to tell you all about their produce. Try to buy more than one pepper or tomato. You'll want a good genetic sampling. Look of course for well formed, disease free specimens.
When I bought my habaneros a couple years ago, I bought the ones that had the best color as that showed me they were the ripest. I brought them home and when I made my sauce (which is to die for BTW) I saved seed from several of the peppers. If it's a pepper or tomato that you really like you can buy several times over the season, saving some from each time to get a good selection too.
I just removed the seed from the pepper and put it on a paper towel on the window sill to dry thoroughly. Then I stored them in a paper envelope.
Presto! Habanero seed!
The same is true for saving tomato seed.
Say your farmer has some beautiful Brandywine or Hillbilly tomatoes that you like.
Buy several tomatoes and when you get ready to eat the tomatoes simply squeeze out some of the pulp with seeds into a clean glass or jar, cover well with tepid water and top the jar off with a paper towel or coffee filter held in place with a rubber band or some such contrivance.
After a few days you'll notice that some bubbles are coming to the top of the water and soon, you'll see your seeds laying on the bottom of the jar. Pour off the liquid and fill and rinse several times with clean water.
I use a fine sieve and run water over the seeds.
Then put the seeds on a paper towel and allow to dry thoroughly before putting them into envelopes.
Now you have collected peppers and tomatoes and your seed collecting days have started. LOL
I recently read an article about how the dried beans harvest this year would be reduced because of acreage turned over to corn. (I'm sure at this point acreage has been lost to bad weather as well)
Being a lover of dried bean dishes, and who isn't? I decided to grow my own.
So...off to the grocery store and the dried bean section!
What you say? You can't plant dried beans and grow beans???
Of course you can. That's what dried beans are, they're seeds.
I bought a pound of light red kidney beans which I use a lot for chili in the winter time, for under 2 dollars.
Online, I've seen those same seeds for 7 dollars!
I brought home my beans and planted half of them. They are now a foot and a half tall and beginning to flower. I did get them in early.
As soon as they are done producing, if there is enough time, I'll plant some more, but the point is, since beans are self fertile, rarely crossing with other beans, and besides, these commercially produced beans would have been grown in vast fields where the odds of them crossing with some other bean is miniscule, I am certain of harvesting exactly what I planted. Light red kidney beans for my excellent chili upon which I will pour my excellent habanero hot sauce this winter! Oh the joys of food!
You can even have some for supper as green beans too. Just be sure you leave plenty on the plants to mature and dry. Harvest when pods are dry and "rattley", shell out the beans and store like you would any dried beans. Make sure they are really good and dry though, wouldn't want them to go moldy on you.
As far as I know, any beans you plant this way will most likely be bush beans as mechanical harvesters are used and they like bush beans for ease of harvesting. If the plants should begin to put out long runners, stick some poles in the ground for them to hang on to.
This is the first time I'm growing from store bought beans here like this. I just couldn't afford seeds and realized I didn't have to spend 7 dollars a pound for seeds when I could get them at the store for a lot less.
Do buy the freshest beans too. Provided they weren't exposed to killing levels of heat somewhere along the way, they should do just fine.
If you want to test for germination before you plant them, you can put some on wet paper toweling and keep them moist. They should sprout in less than a week.
Here's some info I found on the web.
- Put exactly ten seeds on top of a damp, folded paper towel.
- Put the towel and seeds into a plastic sandwich bag and seal.
- Label the container with the date and seed variety being tested.
- Leave at room temperature for a week or so. (Leave parsley, carrot and celery longer; they're slow.)
- Count the number of seeds that sprout:
- 10 = 100% or perfect germination
- 9 = 90% or excellent
- 8 = 80% or good
- 6-7 = 60-70% or poor -- sow more thickly
- 5 or less = 50% or less -- throw the seed out!
You can also try saving seed from melons or cucumbers. These however will cross but, if the farmer has grown them in big fields where the odds of them crossing is lower, you can try it. You may get something really good! Or not. Just make sure the fruit is not from a hybrid plant, but from open pollinated or Heirloom varieties.
So, if you want to start seed collecting, begin with the food you eat.
The point of all this is to help people get used to thinking in terms of "seasons ahead".
While gardening is one of the most important skills you can have, unless there is someone in your group who understands seeds, you could only be gardening till your seed runs out. And that would be bad.