When the SHTF, first thoughts turn to fight, hide, or flee – immediate survival. But what happens after the disaster dust settles and the survivors inherit some sort of post-apocalyptic world where there is no electricity and conditions are more or less medieval?
Living a rich, full life under any circumstances is possible only when certain human needs are met: food, water, shelter, sleep, physical and emotional connection with others, and novelty (experiencing new things). One way to prepare for an ample and healthy food supply is to begin gardening and saving seeds before the need arises.
Many home growers cherish the taste, smell, and texture of vine-ripened tomatoes and potatoes freshly dug from the earth. Every spring, an annual pilgrimage of residential gardeners purchase packets of commercially-processed seeds to sprout their own backyard edibles.
Save money and increase your long-term odds for survival by hoarding the reproductive part of your harvest. As an added bonus, you will be able to preserve species that you favored the year before. Learning how to use every part of a plant is quite empowering.
If there were no garden stores selling seeds, think how valuable the skill of seed saving would become – not to mention the seeds themselves.
Seeds are small, light-weight, and easy to pack or store for future use.
There are several ways to learn how to save seeds. One tried-and-true method is trial and error. Tomatoes produce lots of seeds and are great to use for getting the hang of seed keeping.
Another resource available is to get a seed-saving guide. Remember, though, that the people who write such how-to’s probably started out just like any other novice: with no prior experience.
All you need to harvest seeds from garden fruits and vegetables are:
• A knife to get to the seeds
• A spoon or scoop to remove the seeds
• A container to catch and wash the seeds
• A dish and wax paper, butcher paper, or parchment paper to dry the seeds
Once harvested, decide if you want to freeze the seeds or dry them. If you like to experiment, try both methods and see which works best for your seeds.
When drying seeds, figure out if the fruit or veggie is considered dry or wet. Examples in the dry category are beans, peppers, and okra; in the wet category, we find tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant.
Fruit or vegetable seeds from the dry category may need only a basic cleaning, dehusking, drying, and storing in containers. But seeds from wet-category plants are surrounded by a clinging pulp which must be removed by washing the seeds very gently, so as not to damage them.
Allowing wet seeds to ferment before drying them in the shade for a few days discourages mold from growing before you have a chance to put the dried seeds into storage receptacles.
If the natural climate where you live is humid, consider acquiring a seed dryer or dehydrator – or just pop a tray of them in the oven at very low heat, checking often for dryness.
Prepare seeds for freezing in exactly the same way as for drying: collect them, get rid of pulp and other liquids around the seeds, remove their husks, and dry them. Then, pack them into airtight containers and put them somewhere that has a consistently cool temperature.
Freezing seeds that are wet can cause them to crack or split so be sure they are completely dry before packing them for storage. Silica gel can help thoroughly dry seeds.
Another tip is to place the stored seeds in the back of the refrigerator or freezer. This way, they will experience fewer fluctuations in temperature that occur when the door is opened and closed.
As a rule of thumb, for every 1% increase in humidity or every 10-degree increase in temperature, a seed can lose half its storage life.
Whether you save seeds dry or frozen, they won’t be very useful if you don’t mark every container with its contents: the type of seed and any other information you think might come in handy next year.
Here are some suggestions for labeling your seed stash:
• Name of seed type and variety
• Date stored
• Ideal season for planting
• At maturity information such as what nutrients are found in this produce
• Time needed to mature
• Special instructions (such as do these seeds require a special type of fertilizer)
• Expiration date for unused seeds
Seeds from beans, lettuce, peas, peppers, and tomatoes are thought to be the easiest to save. All these plants are self-pollinating and generate seeds in the same season as their planting.
Squash, melons, cucumbers, and greens are also great for testing your seed-saving skills. Grow foods you like to eat and practice harvesting not only their fruits but also their life-giving seeds.
One truly amazing fact is that frozen seeds can be viable – they will sprout – for around 15 years, on average, with some documented as lasting 40 years!
Save Seeds for Long-Term SurvivalSo go ahead and play in the dirt. Live for the now while preparing for the future: save seeds!