How to store chili seeds. hot peppers are a very exciting crop. There are many varieties of different colors and shapes. Many enthusiasts try their hand at cultivating the hottest ones, measured according to the Scoville scale.
For those who are “sick” of chillies, a further challenge is to preserve the seeds on their own from one year to the next, keeping their own varieties to be sown the following season.
Storing chili seeds is a simple operation to carry out, also because there are no crossings as in other plants, such as pumpkins and courgettes. So here is a small guide on how to take the seeds of hot peppers to reuse them in the garden or exchange them with other enthusiasts. In addition to the practical methods, we will also see the reasons why this activity is useful and important.
Chilli: independent pollination or fruit set?
The pepper plant is called “autogamous”, as it is part of the family of vegetables that bear fruit in full autonomy. Its flowers attach (i.e. become fruit) without having to be fertilized by external pollination. The basic structure, the plant’s DNA, is passed down from plant to fruit, the seeds of which will give rise to new plants.
In this sense, a hybrid cannot be born from a pepper seed. We therefore choose, to produce our seeds, the most beautiful, fresh and luxuriant fruits, whose seeds will guarantee a high quality of germination and fruiting.
The fruit of the chili pepper is simply harvested when it is ripe, that is when it has developed its size to the maximum, and reaches the most intense shade of its color.
Three simple precautions to be respected:
- It is not a good idea to wait for the fruit to start wilting: during the recovery phase of the seeds, the chili pepper internally releases a viscous liquid caused by decomposition, which makes it difficult to remove the seeds and can preclude their quality.
- Do not use fruits that have brownish areas, or about to rot, for obvious reasons of seed quality.
- Chillies that are still green should be discarded as they are immature. The seeds inside them, as a result, will be sterile and will not be able to germinate.
Differences between chillies
The extraction explained below refers to medium-sized chillies, such as the Habanero. The difference with smaller chillies, such as the classic Calabrian chillies in bunches, lies in their interior: the medium-large varieties have a spongy and whitish structure internally where the seeds are attached, called placenta. The chillies in bunches, much smaller, do not contain it and the seeds are collected simply by opening and shaking the chilli slightly.
The extraction of the seeds is a very simple practice, as we will see shortly, but it is good to remember that we are handling fruits that contain capsaicin. This molecule is responsible for the typical sensation of “spiciness” produced by the chilli fruit. It is therefore advisable to adequately protect your hands, using suitable tools for the purpose, gloves are recommended.
Extract the seeds from the chilli possibly avoiding cutting the fruit in half, in order to avoid cutting even the (few) seeds inside. Instead, make a cut from the petiole to the apex of the fruit, on both sides, thus closing a circle along the entire outer part of the fruit.
At this point, we will be sure that we have cut only the external pulp of the fruit, creating two halves, thus leaving the placenta and seeds intact.
Structure of the habanero pepper
The chilli, once opened, is made up of the following parts:
Pericarp: external skin of the pepper;
Mesocarp: pulpy part rich in capsaicin;
Endocarp: internal part of the pepper, usually hollow;
Placenta: spongy structure with seeds;
Collection of the placenta
Take the placenta and seeds, possibly without separating them, using the tip of the knife.
The result should be similar to the one in the photo.
Assuming you have different varieties of chilli pepper, from which you want to extract the seeds, make sure that there are no seeds stuck on the knife blade and on the gloves. It seems trivial, but if there is one thing that should be avoided, it is to involuntarily create “mixes” that could lead to confusion at the time of sowing.
Place the placenta and seeds on a paper towel, folded in half. Make sure the seeds fit nicely in the center.
Write down the variety of chili peppers with a felt-tip pen and carefully fold up the paper towel, keeping the seeds and placenta well in the center.
Although it may seem contraindicated, storing the seeds with the placenta for a period of a few days has a double advantage, since:
- The seeds still connected to the placenta acquire a higher percentage of germination;
- During the drying phase, the placenta releases an “oil” on the seeds which naturally strengthens the seed against bacteria, parasites and molds.
- After storing the bag in a cool and dry place for about a week, the paper towel will have absorbed all the liquids present in the seeds and placenta.
The seeds at this point must be dry and have a “golden” appearance. This indicates that they are ready for long-term storage.
Remove the placenta residues, always using gloves (the seeds do not actually contain capsaicin, but have been in contact with the placenta which instead has plenty of it).
Remove the seeds from the paper towel and store them in a paper bag, and then in an airtight container.
Preserved in this way, the seeds maintain a practically unchanged germination rate in the three years following storage.
Storage in the freezer is recommended to increase the percentage of germination over time. The shelf life can also increase up to ten years.
Why keep seeds
The conservation of the seeds of our vegetables is the most natural thing that can be done to grow, year after year, local products in our gardens. All the more reason, the ancient and local varieties are a very important heritage for biodiversity: ecotypes selected over the years, from garden to garden, by the expert hands of farmers, chosen for rusticity, water needs, taste.
These cultivars, which tend to be unsuitable for large-scale distribution, are slowly disappearing at the expense of tasteless cultivars, all the same, built in the laboratory to mature uniformly and for a long conservation after harvest, so as to travel without deteriorating to large supermarkets, incompatible, therefore with sustainable agriculture.
And when you “live” from organic farming, it is easy to be troubled by inquiries such as the one made and disclosed by the Swiss TV RSI, on 02 November 2018. A journalist photographs the evolution over time of two American dark variety zucchini, one imported from Spain, the other grown organically. Well, it turned out that the imported courgette, left in the home, was still perfectly intact after four months. Organic courgette, on the other hand, practically no longer existed.
This must make us reflect. What do we eat? And what do we become? The return to organic is mandatory, if we do not want to be overwhelmed by progress, losing the real and genuine fruits donated by the eco-sustainable working of the earth.
Preserving the seeds of our plants from year to year, and then cultivating them in subsequent years with natural methods, is the correct way to go.
You may be interested to read about the Hot peppers: grow guide/ Habanero pepper blogpost/ Calabrian chilli blogpost/ Jalapeño pepper blogpost/ Naga morich pepper blogpost/ Carolina reaper blogpost/ Bhut jolokia blogpost/ Pork steak recipe.