Seed Savers Exchange
The Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that encourages gardeners to save and share heirloom seed. Over the years, huge, multinational seed companies have merged and bought out smaller producers. In doing so, they've discontinued many heirloom varieties in favor of popular hybrids.
These old-time, heirloom varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers not only offer some of the best-tasting produce, they also contain remarkable genetic diversity -- a fact that could prove vital should some disease or insect threaten our current food supply. (Think of the devastation that occurred during the Irish potato famine, when millions of people depended on a single crop.)
Seed Savers Exchange was formed in 1975 in an effort to build a network of gardeners that grow, collect, conserve, and share heirloom seeds -- seeds that may one day be the key to our very survival. And in the meantime, by saving and growing heirlooms you'll enjoy the best-tasting harvests.
Clever Gardening Technique
It's rewarding to save seeds from this year's garden for replanting next year. Historically, farmers and gardeners saved seed from the best plants, eventually yielding plants that were best adapted to their climate, soil, and taste or ornamental preferences.
It's best to save seed from nonhybrid, "open-pollinated" varieties because the plants that grow from these seeds will closely resemble the parent plants. (Plants grown from seed saved from hybrid plants may not be similar to parent plants.)
Separate seed from the pulp or flesh of fully ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash and air dry. Allow bean seeds to fully dry and mature on the vine. Let flower heads dry on their stems, harvesting just before they shed their seeds. (If necessary, cover seed heads with paper bags to deter hungry birds.)
Allow seeds to dry, place in labeled envelopes or in a canning jar and store in a cool, dry place -- a refrigerator is fine. Some seeds will last for years but some will decline more quickly. Ideally, you should save seed every year for replanting the following season.