How to Save Vegetable Seeds

Saving Seeds From Tomatoes, Peppers, Beans, and More Veggies

July 30, 2021
Pepper Seeds

Want to save vegetable seeds to replant next year? Here’s our seed-saving guide for beginners. Learn how to harvest and save seeds from some of your favorite garden vegetables, including beans, peppers, tomatoes, and more!

Using seeds from your own plants connects you with the earth’s natural cycles, and many gardeners find this activity rewarding, especially as it helps to preserve heirloom varieties and promotes genetic diversity.

Which Seeds to Save

Some crops are easier to save than others. If you are a beginner, we would highly recommend that you start with vegetables such as peas, beans, lettuce, and tomatoes. Also, here are a few guidelines:

  1. First things first. Only save seeds from “open-pollinated” varieties, as this ensures that the seeds produced this year will result in the same plants next year.
  2. Also, remember that some crops can cross-pollinate if they are planted too near each other. For saving seeds, it’s best that the variety of seed you are saving isn’t intermixed with other varieties.
  3. It’s important to know when a seed is fully mature. It is NOT always when you would harvest the seeds for eating. See our tips on which seeds to save

How to Save Your Own Seed From Tomatoes, Peppers, Beans, and More

In this video, we show how to choose which plants you should save seeds from, and demonstrate ways to harvest and prepare your seeds so that they have the best chance of germinating when sown.

Commonly Saved Vegetable Seeds

Below is a rundown of gathering, treating, and storing the most commonly-saved garden vegetable seeds. (If you haven’t read our primer on seeds, you may wish to review the article, “Start Saving Those Vegetable Seeds” first.)

Tomatoes and Cucumbers

Because tomatoes and cucumbers have seeds that are coated with a gel, the first step is to remove it by fermentation. The process smells bad, however, so don’t do it in an enclosed room in the house. Follow these steps:

  1. Squeeze or spoon the seed mass into a waterproof container (glass, jar, plastic cup, or deli container).
  2. Add enough water to equal the volume of the seed mass, and put the container in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.
  3. Stir the contents at least once a day.
  4. In a couple of days, the viable seeds will sink to the bottom and bad seeds and debris and white mold will float to the surface.
  5. Wait five days for all the good seeds to drop, then rinse away the gunk at the top.
  6. Wash the seeds in several changes of water, and lay them out in a single layer on a glass or plastic plate or screen.
  7. Put the plate in a warm place until the seeds are fully dry, which can take several weeks.

See our video below, demonstrating how to save tomato seeds.



  1. Cut peppers open to find the seeds in a mass on the central stem.
  2. Brush them off the stem onto a plate or screen.
  3. Put seeds aside to dry.

Green bell peppers

Squashes and Pumpkins

  1. When squashes are ready, break them open and remove the seeds.
  2. Hold the seeds under running water, rubbing them between your fingers to remove any stringy material and membrane.
  3. Then lay them out on a plate or screen to dry.

Squash and pumpkins

Peas and Beans

  1. Pick the brown pods from the vines and remove the seeds, which will require about six weeks of air-drying. One way is to put them in loosely woven baskets and stir them once a day.
  2. If frost or other inclement weather threatens legumes that are ripe but not dry, pull up the vines by the roots, and hang the plants upside down in a warm area, such as your basement or barn. The pods will draw energy from the plants for another few days, which will increase the seed viability.

Green beans


  1. For watermelons, simply rinse the seeds under running water to remove any traces of flesh or membrane. For cantaloupe and musk melon, seeds will have more fibers and membrane attached to them. Wash this off, rubbing the seeds between your fingers to remove as much as the debris as you can.
  2. Then put the seeds in a container of water, and the good seeds will sink to the bottom.
  3. Remove what comes to the top, give the good seeds another rinse, and dry them on a plate or screen.


Lettuce and Greens

Radishes, lettuce, and Asian greens also produce seeds in pods after the plant has flowered. With these vegetables, too, it is best to let the pods dry on the plant.

These plants, however, tend to dry from the bottom up, a few pods at a time.

The dry ones are prone to shattering and spreading their seed all over the ground, so either bag the seed heads—literally putting a paper bag tied at the base over the plants to capture the seeds—or pick the dry pods on a daily basis. Old nylons or row-cover materials work well for bagging because you can still see what’s going on with the plant.

Storing Saved Seeds

Once your seeds are completely dry, they can be stored in any dry, secure container and kept in a cool, dry area. Keeping them dry is very important (as you probably could have guessed by now).

  • For large seeds, such as beans, you can recycle the cardboard canisters that certain snack foods come in.
  • For small seeds, such as pepper and tomatoes, washed-out pill bottles work well.

How long a seed remains viable depends on its type and the environment it’s kept in. Tomato seeds may last for more than five years, while squash seeds typically last for less time. You can extend seeds’ viability by freezing them, especially if you have a zero-degree freezer. Properly dried and frozen seeds can remain viable for at least 40 years! See How Long Do Seed Last? for more information.

Collecting Seeds From Bolted Vegetables

Here’s a helpful tip: When veggies “bolt” (run to seed) during the summer, use them to save your own seeds!

We hope that you will enjoy saving the seeds from your favorite plants! If you have any tips, please post below!  

Learn more about how to save your own seeds in this video.


The Old Farmer's Almanac Gardener's Companion, Summer 2002


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Tomatoes from sprouting store bought tomatoes

I bought tomatoes on a vine from the store and one sat on the counter for a week. When we cut into the tomato the seeds were sprouting. I swiped the seeds a sprouts across some potting soil in the bottom of a strawberry container box, put a dusting of soil across the top, and in about a week they were sprouting. We got about 30 tomato plants from that one tomato. Don't throw anything away. I might be your next garden.

Saving garden seeds;

I once planted a fresh ear of corn horizontally in a garden; in about a week every corn-kernel had sprouted; I'll try the tomato-slice idea; I know Pumpkin seeds can be saved to sprout the next spring;

Tomato seeds

I take a thin slice of tomato, place it under about 3/4" soil and plants come up like crazy! Don't forget to amend the soil with egg shells for magnesium. (I pulverize mine into bits and save in an old coffee can.)

Drying seeds

Can you use a faster method such as food dehydrator to dry seeds?


The Editors's picture

Because dehydrators use heat to dry their contents out, it wouldn’t be a good idea use one to dry seeds, as it might cook the seeds and cause them to no longer be viable. It’s best to let seeds air-dry for a week or so in a dark, dry place and then store them in paper envelopes. 

growing corn

two years in a roll I have tried to plant corn. The plants come up very nice, butstop growing at about tow to three feet tall, the fruit is little and uneatable. Is the some thing I am do doing or not doing to the corn. it is keep watered but still nothing. Please help!

Squash seeds

Hi there Im currently drying squash seeds and would like to know if I can plant them in 6wks time?
Thanks So Much.
Happy Gardening!


I took a Roma tomato cut it open took the seeds out planted, to my surprise there were sprouts coming up in to days. How cool is that!

are the pepper seeds okay?

Hello. I have been practising my craft of saving seeds, I do have an odd question. For Pepper seeds, I noticed some of them appear a little black in the middle. Does it mean that it is still a good seed or do I discard them to be safe than sorry? The pepper itself was healthy and there was no rot on or in the pepper. Your help would be truly appreciated! Thank you!

We recommend that you discard

The Editors's picture

We recommend that you discard them, to be on the safe side. In general, pepper seeds should not show discoloration, such as brown or black, as it could indicate disease or other issue.

Awesome thank you! One other

Awesome thank you! One other question. We are dealing with frost but still have LOTS of peppers that need to ripen, any tips or tricks you can recommend? I have heard about putting them in a paper bag with an apple may help but no one has verified that idea. Thank you again.

starting from scratch!

I have an old neglected farm with about5 acres of useable land and am looking at making a community farm as well as educational. Any info I can get would be greatly appreciated !

Although I don't know the

Although I don't know the type of genetics, I had successfully grown Green Bell Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers and Sweet Peppers from seeds that were harvested from grocery store bought peppers. They worked fine the first year but longevity of repeated seasons is unknown.

Additionally, the practice of growing seed from store bought produce can cross pollinate with heirlooms if close enough. Resulting in unpredictable long term plant traits.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think this works for most garden veggies because they are probably hybrids. It's like trying to breed mules. One more reason to plant heirloom varieties.

Correct, save seeds only from

The Editors's picture

Correct, save seeds only from open-pollinated or heirloom varieties, never from hybrids (which are very common from local garden stores). See more here: