Bolting herbs aren’t everyone’s favorite item in the garden, despite their beauty. For several types of herbs this means that their life cycle is coming to an end. To extend the life of plants like basil or cilantro, many gardeners pinch off the flowers, which is a highly recommended technique.
But what if you want to save the seeds for next year?
Each vegetable is different from the other, for example, in the case of tomatoes the seeds that we usually eat are the seeds!!!. Separate them, wash them in a colander and let them dry on a paper towel, once dry keep them in the paper bag and label them for next season, the same for pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, watermelons and everything that has seeds.
I like to let some of my herbs flower so I can save the seeds for next year. Especially when I know a plant won’t make it through the winter. Basil is probably my favorite herb to save seeds from. Last year was the first time I tried this and the sweet basil plant I grew this year came from those seeds. There is something so special about that.
Since it is the end of the summer I let both my sweet basil plant and cinnamon basil plant go to seed. Thankfully they both still have plenty of leaves to harvest and use in recipes like caprese salad, but a good handful of the seedpods were dried up and ready to be pulled off.
Below is a step-by-step how to in saving those basil seeds for next year.
1. First the basil plant has to flower. Enjoy these flowers since it’s not everyday you let your herbs do this.
2. Let the flowers dry out on the plant, and the seedpods will form.
You will want the pods to become totally brown. Those are the ones you will want to pull off. If the tops of the flower stalk are still green, you need to wait a little longer. This can take about 4-6 weeks from the time the plant flowers.
3. Cut off the dried stalk.
Then place in a clean, dry work area. I find a wide, shallow bowl works great.
4. Pull off each pod
If you pull off one of the pods and open the husk you will see several little black seeds have formed inside. Those are what you want to save. Now if you had the time and patience you could pull off each pod individually and pull out each little black seed. If you want to try a quicker way, continue on to step 5.
5. Rub the dried stalk
Rub the dried stalk with the seedpods with your fingers to loosen the seeds, encouraging them to fall out on their own.
6. Collect the black seeds
Take a pair of tweezers and pick up the black seeds that fell out and place them in a separate container. Blowing very gently will push the husks around and help you find and pick out the seeds.
7. If there are some pods that didn’t open when you rubbed the stalk, you may have to individually pull those apart and save those seeds. Either way, patience is a virtue when saving these seeds (but so totally worth it!).
8. Store the seeds somewhere dark, but with some air ventilation for about a week. A small manila envelope is great for this. After about a week the seeds should be completely dried out and should be stored in an airtight container, like a mason jar or an old lunchbox like I use to store my seeds.
9. Next year you can plant your seeds and enjoy a new basil plant!