You know summer has arrived in your garden when the zucchini starts to roll in. With the warm weather, zucchini becomes the gift that keeps on giving. If you want to ensure that you have this prolific crop for years to come, try saving the seeds!
Saving zucchini seeds is simple. All you need to do is remove the seeds from an overripe zucchini, give the seeds a good cleaning, and then lay them out to dry completely. No fermentation is required.
I’ll explain everything you need to know about saving zucchini seeds and the methods that I like to use myself.
Zucchini and cross-pollination
If you’re growing any other type of squash in your garden, there is a good chance that it can cross-pollinate with your zucchini. Cross-pollination is not ideal when you’re looking to save seeds because it creates hybrids. You don’t want to save seeds from hybrid zucchini because they will not grow true-to-type in the next season.
The best way to prevent cross-pollination is to pollinate your zucchini by hand.
It’s important to know the difference between the male flower and the female flower of a zucchini plant to hand-pollinate. The easiest way to tell them apart is by looking at the stems. The female flower will usually have a very small zucchini already forming at its base while the male flower will not.
Once you see flowers forming, you’ll want to cover both the male and female flowers that you plan to use in hand-pollination with some kind of cloth bag. This prevents any bees or other insects from introducing pollen from other squash varieties.
When the flowers open in the morning, locate the male flower and use a cotton swab to collect the pollen. Take your pollen-covered cotton swab and roll it over the stigma in the center of the female flower. Make sure to cover the female flower with the cloth bag again once you’re finished to keep out any bees.
And that’s it! You successfully hand-pollinated your zucchini plant.
How to save zucchini seeds – step-by-step
Harvest overripe fruit
The zucchinis that we usually harvest to eat are actually immature fruit. You’ll want to wait a couple of extra weeks before harvesting the zucchini that you plan to save seeds from to ensure that it’s overripe and has reached full maturity.
An overripe zucchini can grow to be quite large. It will darken in color and may even turn yellow. The skin will look matte and will feel more like winter squash.
One zucchini will have enough seeds inside to last you a while so don’t think you have to choose between growing zucchini to eat and growing zucchini for seed. You can check out this article for tips on how to make your zucchini plants even more prolific.
Remove seeds from zucchini
Cut your zucchini in half long-ways and scoop out the seeds either with your hands or a spoon. Place them in a clean bowl or strainer for cleaning. If you have ever cleaned out a pumpkin, this process is very similar.
You’ll want to give the seeds a very good rinse to get off any excess pulp or residue. Zucchini seeds are bigger-sized seeds so it’s not as tedious to separate the seeds from the pulp by hand.
This is also a good time to check for seed viability and remove any bad seeds. Place your seeds in a bowl of water and let them sit for a couple of minutes. Any seeds that float to the top of the bowl are not viable and should be discarded. Any seeds that sink to the bottom of the bowl are good!
Spread your now clean seeds evenly over a paper plate or paper towels to dry. The seeds will take about a week to dry and they must be completely dry to not go bad in storage.
You don’t want to dry your seeds in an oven or a dehydrator as they often get too hot and will ruin the seed viability. Direct sunlight can also damage the seeds. A good spot to keep your seeds while they’re drying is a kitchen cabinet or pantry.
As the zucchini seeds dry, they may start to stick together. I like to check on mine every day and give them a toss to make sure nothing is sticking. If you see any seeds that are stuck together, gently pull them apart.
You’ll know that the seeds are completely dry when they can be easily snapped in half. If they still have a little bend to them, they’re not dry yet.
Do zucchini seeds need to be fermented?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get mixed answers on whether or not to ferment saved zucchini seeds. In my personal experience, it’s not necessary. As long as you clean the seeds and make sure they dry well, they should do just fine.
If you’re looking to ferment, the process is very simple. Take your seeds that you just removed from the zucchini and soak them in a little bit of water for about a day or two. The seeds should separate from the pulp and have a slightly sour odor once they’re ready.
Pour off the zucchini pulp liquid as well as any seeds that have floated to the top. Remember, these seeds are no good. The seeds that have sunk to the bottom are the ones you want to dry and save.
How to store zucchini seeds
The most important part of storing any seeds is making sure that they are in a cool and dry environment. Extra moisture can lead to poor germination rates and even rot. A basement is a good place to keep your seeds but closets or kitchen cabinets will work fine too.
Store your seeds in an airtight container. Look around your house for old glass jars, plastic bags, or tupperware as these are great storage options. Just remember to label and date everything so you remember what they are and when you saved them.
Saved zucchini seeds should last about 5 years but can last longer if stored in the right conditions. If you see any condensation forming in your storage containers, your seeds are not dry enough. Try placing a gel-silica packet in with your seeds to remove any excess moisture.
Can you eat zucchini seeds?
If after saving your zucchini seeds, you find that you have more than you need for your garden, you can try roasting the extras.
Zucchini seeds are completely edible and very delicious. When I roast, I like to bake mine in the oven for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. You can season them to your liking and store them away for a nice summer snack.
Saving zucchini seeds is such a simple way to get ahead in next year’s garden planning. All it takes is picking an overripe zucchini, removing the seeds, giving them a good wash, and leaving them to dry. As long as the seeds are stored properly, you’re sure to have a fantastic zucchini seed supply for years to come. You might even save a little money in the process too and who doesn’t like that?