If you’re anything like me, you’re probably always on the lookout for wallet-friendly gardening supplies and hacks. One of my favorite ways to save money in the garden is to save seeds from the season’s harvest.
Eggplant is one of the easiest crops to save seeds from, making it very beginner-friendly. All you need to do is remove the seeds from an overripe eggplant, separate them from the pulp, and let them dry. It’s that simple!
I’ll explain the methods that I like to use in this process and the best way to store your seeds to ensure that they remain viable for several years.
Eggplants and cross-pollination
Before saving seeds from eggplant, it’s important to understand how they pollinate so that you can prevent cross-pollination between different varieties.
Eggplants are self-pollinating, meaning that they have both female and male parts in their flowers and, like the name suggests, can pollinate themselves. They are also open-pollinated, meaning that pollination occurs through natural occurrences like wind, rain, or insects.
Because of their open-pollination, an eggplant can cross-pollinate with an eggplant from a different plant if they are within close enough proximity to one another. If you’re only growing one variety of eggplant in your garden, this isn’t a big deal. But if you’re growing more than one variety, try to keep them at least 50 feet apart from one another to ensure no cross-pollination.
While cross-pollination isn’t entirely a bad thing, the result will be a hybridized eggplant. If you’re worried about cross-pollination happening in your garden, try tying a cloth bag around the flower until you see a fruit form. This will prevent any outside pollen from entering the flower.
Can you save seeds from a hybrid eggplant?
There are many perks to growing hybrid variety vegetables but, saving seeds is not one of them. It’s very difficult to predict how saved hybrid seeds will do in the next growing season- if they do anything at all. In most cases, the fruit of saved seeds will not be true-to-type and may even end up with some funky mutation.
If you’re looking to save seeds, make sure the variety of eggplant you’re growing is open-pollinated for the best results. Here are some good options to help you get started:
- Black Beauty
- Long Purple
- Rosa Bianca
How to save eggplant seeds- step-by-step
Choose the eggplant you want to save seeds from
When I save seeds from eggplants, I like to choose one or two fruits from a plant that I think is doing the best. I’ll tie a string or a twist tie around the stem as a reminder to not accidentally harvest them to eat.
The seeds from just one eggplant are enough to last you a pretty long time so don’t worry about not having enough eggplant to eat. If you’re having trouble getting your eggplants to fruit, check out this article for some helpful tips.
Harvest overripe eggplant
It’s important to save seeds from fruit that is overripe to ensure that seeds have reached maturity. You’ll want to leave the fruit on the plant for several weeks longer than you would if you were harvesting eggplant to eat. Depending on the variety you’re growing, the eggplant will turn a yellowish-brown color and will lose its shiny appearance.
Remove seeds from eggplant
Cut your eggplant in half long-ways to expose the seeds inside. The seeds will be found in the bottom half of the fruit (for long varieties) and should be a brownish color. The easiest way to remove the seeds is to take a spoon and scoop them out. You can also use your hands if you find that works best for you.
Separate seeds from the pulp
Many people have a lot of quick and easy ways for separating the seeds from the pulp. I prefer to do it the old-fashioned way and just separate them by hand.
If you find that this method is too tedious and time-consuming, you can try putting the scooped-out contents in a food processor or blender with a little bit of water and blend on its lowest setting. The seeds should sink to the bottom of the eggplant pulp liquid and can now be easily separated.
Keep in mind that when you use a food processor or blender, you run the risk of damaging your seeds. Switch to separating by hand if you see this occurring.
Pat your seeds dry with a cloth or paper towel and then place them on something like a paper plate, piece of cardboard, or a plastic tray to dry. Try to spread the seeds out as evenly as you can to ensure that they all dry out.
You want your seeds to be completely dry for long-term storage so make sure to place them in a warm and well-ventilated space. I like to check on seeds after a week to see if they’re dry yet and this is usually plenty of time.
Do eggplant seeds need to be fermented?
Unlike some other crops, eggplant seeds do not need to be fermented before they can be dried and stored. This is because they don’t have the gelatinous coating around their seeds as tomatoes and cucumbers do. That’s what makes eggplant so easy to save seeds from!
How to store eggplant seeds
How you choose to store your dried eggplant seeds is up to you. You just want to make sure that they are kept in a cool and dark environment so they won’t go bad. If you have a basement, this is a great place for seed storage. If not, a dark kitchen cabinet will work just fine.
You can keep your seeds in anything you might have around the house including mason jars, plastic bags, and coin envelopes. If you see condensation forming on your jar or plastic bag, your seeds are not dry enough. But don’t worry- throwing a gel silica packet in with your seeds should take care of the moisture problem.
If you’re saving a lot of seeds, it can be easy to forget what’s what. Dating and labeling all of your seeds will save you any confusion in the future. It can also be fun to get creative about your seed organization setup. Personally, I like to keep my seeds in old cookie tins that are labeled by plant type.
Eggplant seeds should remain viable for up to four years. But, if you’re ever unsure, an easy germination test will tell you if your seeds are still good or not.
All you need to do is spread a couple of seeds out over a wet paper towel and fold it in half. Place your now folded paper towel and seeds inside an airtight plastic bag. You’ll want to check on the seeds frequently to make sure the paper towel doesn’t dry out and to see if any seeds have germinated.
If, after about 3 weeks, nothing has germinated, your seeds are probably not good anymore.
If you’re new to seed saving, eggplant is a great crop to start with. It’s as easy as removing the seeds, letting them dry, and placing them in storage. Eggplant flowers pollinate themselves and you don’t even have to mess with the fermentation process that other vegetable seeds require. For us gardeners on a budget, seed saving is such an easy way to save money.
In the end, you might find that you end up saving more seeds than you have room for in your garden. If this is the case, consider giving the gift of seeds to any gardening friends you have. After all, sharing your harvests can be one of the most rewarding things about gardening.