The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to save cucumber seeds

Want to save your cucumber seeds so you don't have to buy them next year?  The first step is to let one of your cucumbers grow bigger and bigger until it turns yellow.

Growing cucumber

Not quite....

Over ripe cucumber

Now they're ready!  For best results, let each cucumber sit for a week after removing it from the vine, then...

Slice cucumber in half

...slice the cucumber in half...

Seedless cucumber

...and pull out the guts with your finger.

Cucumber seeds

The seeds are enclosed in little sacs of gel, which is a clue that they're not ready to dry as is.  First you need to ferment the gel sacs off the way you do when saving tomato seeds.

Ferment cucumber seeds

Parthenocarpic cucumber seedsJust pour some water into the container with your cucumber seeds and ignore the cup for a few days until all the seeds fall to the bottom.  You may need to stir gently with a spoon to make the seeds drop out of suspension.  Mold on top of the water is a good sign, signalling that your seeds are ready, but a foul smell means you waited too long.  You can still harvest the seeds once the water starts to stink, but your husband will (rightly) complain about the noxious scent in the kitchen.

Skim off the mold and carefully pour off the water, then rinse the seeds a few times.  Finally, let the seeds dry and examine what you've got.  Many cucumber varieties (like the one I tried to save seed from) are parthenocarpic, which means that the female flowers with produce fruit without being fertilized by pollen from a male flower.  Parthenocarpic cucumbers are great in the garden since they tend to produce fruits earlier than other varieties, but these cucumbers' seeds will end up looking like the ones shown here --- very flat and small and not viable.  I guess I need to find another variety of cucumber if I want to save the seeds!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Best to start with a non-hybrid variety of cucumber.
Comment by Errol Tue Aug 23 11:30:11 2011
You're totally right --- you always want to look for open-pollinated/heirloom varieties when saving seeds if you want them to breed true. This cucumber variety was actually a hybrid because I wanted to do a crazy experiment and see if I could save seeds from a hybrid that I liked and do some serious culling next year, then continue to select for the traits I want in what would have become an open-pollinated variety. No such luck, though!
Comment by anna Tue Aug 23 13:18:13 2011
I've had good luck over two years with rubbing the tomato seeds with baking soda in a sieve, and rinsing frequently. It seems to get that gel goo off just as well, takes much less time, and doesn't get stinky. I haven't tried it with cucumber seeds yet though.
Comment by trashmaster46 Wed Aug 24 12:36:00 2011
That actually sounds like more work than fermenting (although definitely less elapsed time.) Active time to ferment the seeds is probably less than a minute --- I fill the containers, ignore them for a few days, then stir and rinse. Clean seeds in seconds!
Comment by anna Wed Aug 24 13:43:10 2011

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