How to Save Seeds

How to Save Seeds

The Produce Companion | Hardie Grant Books, 2015

Everyone, it seems, is learning how to save seeds. Generations of gardeners have handed down the knowledge of how to save seeds so as to propagate heirloom varieties of tomatoes and herbs and other life-sustaining vegetal things. Libraries have recently elbowed in on the action and are teaching the public to save seeds. Organizations such as the Seed Savers Exchange not only save seeds but share seeds. The Norwegian government has secured seeds from all over the planet in a guarded facility situated deep within a mountain on a remote island in the Arctic. And those doomsday preppers? They’re grooving on seed stockpiling, too. But here’s the thing—you don’t have to fear a zombie apocalypse or want to go off the grid and raise chickens in your backyard for it to make sense for you to know how to save seeds. All you need is a desire to grow something and the common sense to be frugal about it. Following is a short lesson on how to save seeds, excerpted from The Produce Companion, that illustrates just how darn simple it is to save the edible seeds from cilantro that’s already growing in your garden or on your windowsill. When you’re ready to graduate from there and learn how to save seeds of other species, start at the Seed Saver Exchange site we mentioned earlier, and if you find yourself wanting additional information, just let us know in a comment below and we’ll steer you to the appropriate sources.—Renee Schettler Rossi

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Cilantro, or fresh coriander, leaves are best before the plant begins to bolt, as the leaves then change flavor and become less palatable. [Editor’s Note: When a plant “bolts,” it stops nourishing its leaves and instead creates a profusion of flowers and seeds. It’s very Darwinian in terms of survival of the species. It’s also sorta sad because your plant is about to kick it, but hey, you get seeds!] All is not lost when coriander bolts, as the flowers attract beneficial insects, and the seeds are of course edible. Once the seeds have formed, place a brown paper bag over the top of the plant and secure with a rubber band. Cut the stem and hang it upside down in a dry, dark place for a few weeks and the bag will catch the coriander seeds as they fall. [Editor’s Note: That’s it. Then keep the coriander seeds in a cool, dry, dark place to plant come spring or in recipes for, you know, stuff like salt-roasted potatoes.]


  1. That is a great idea on how to harvest the seeds! I just did the labor-intensive way of harvesting garlic chive seeds. I’ve had the garlic chives for several years, but never let them flower until this year. Although it doesn’t kill the chives, I read somewhere that the taste changes somewhat once it does flower. I had cilantro a few years ago, and was disappointed that it bolted so quickly. I didn’t know to save the seeds at that time, and I assumed my garlic chives would die, too, once they flowered. Thanks for the info! I’ll try it next year with some cilantro!

  2. I have found it so difficult to remove the chaff from collected coriander that I have gone back to purchasing the seed for culinary use. I would be interested to hear how others are able to separate the seeds from the chaff.

  3. Recently a request has been made for seeds in the Arctic Vault. Syria has a seed vault that is very difficult to access right now because of war. A request has been made for seed for a new location in Morocco where the seeds will carefully be used, saved from the new plants and seeds kept in Morocco with duplicates being sent back to the Arctic Vault. Here is the link to the story. Saving seeds is important.

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