Anyone who gardens knows that obtaining seed stock is currently a hit or miss undertaking. Shortages and shipping delays are disruptive and frustrating. What if you could peruse your late winter seed catalogs and enjoy the anticipation of working in your garden and not have to worry about when or even IF your seeds will arrive? Every vegetable you grow produces seeds–each of which can potentially produce an entire plant full of produce-and more seeds!-generation after generation.
The method I describe here will work for all melons as well as cucumbers. But be sure to start with heirloom (open-pollinated) seeds. If you use hybrid seeds, they will not reproduce true to the parent plant, and any yield realized will be puny and disappointing at best. Also, different types of plants have different procedures for seed harvesting. For example, saving lettuce seeds is quite different than saving tomato seeds. Seed-saving is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
So you nurtured that beautiful cantaloupe from seed to sprout to flower to fruit and the reward is perfection: Sweet, aromatic, and juicy. Don’t throw those seeds in the compost pile or down the disposal! A few days’ effort will yield seeds for next year which will produce plants with a much better likelihood of passing on the positive genetic qualities that you so enjoy.
This morning, after a few days’ absence, I found two cantaloupes that were an odd yellowish color and were a bit soft. I assumed they were overripe, and hoped that I would be able to salvage at least some of the fruit for us to enjoy. I cut into them with great trepidation. They. Were. Amazing! As I was scooping out the seeds and pulp I decided I should save the seeds for next year. So I took the seeds, pulp and all, out of the strainer (no rinsing), placed them into a Mason jar, and added about 2 cups of warm water.
Now I just let them set on the counter and swirl the concoction once or twice a day. The pulp will begin to ferment and make bubbles. As it ferments, debris and non-viable seeds will float to the top and the viable ones will sink. The fermenting process is very important, as it works to kill off seed-borne diseases, so don’t skip it. Once the components have separated, I pour off the debris water. Then I add some more cold water, swirl, and pour off. I do this several times till I have just the viable seeds in the bottom of the jar. Then I put my seeds into a sieve and rinse very well. Spread out to dry in a single layer: You can use paper towels and sunshine, and it takes a couple of days. I like to dehydrate them at 115 degrees for several hours.
When they are dry and cool, put them into a clean, dry Mason jar. You can add a silica gel pack if you want. Put in a dark place and check it in 24 hours. If you see any moisture at all on the inside of the jar, re-dry your seeds and try again.
Once your seeds are 100% dry, put them into the freezer for about two weeks. Then they get placed in the fridge until you are ready to plant.