Allow me to point out the obvious: to save seeds you first have to remove them from whatever vegetable, fruit, flower or herb you want to save. But how you effectively and efficiently remove seed isn’t always obvious. Or easy. Sometimes you have to get a bit creative. Eggplant is a perfect example.
Removing seed from eggplant is not an easy thing to do by hand, not like peppers or tomatoes. The seeds are tiny and imbedded in the thick flesh. Could you do it manually? Sure. Is a mechanical process better for efficiency and sanity? Oh yes. As long as it doesn’t damage the seed in the process.
This is the key consideration when harvesting any type of seed. You just have to pay attention when getting creative.
Seeds can be incredibly durable when mature. This is actually one way we tell the difference between mature and immature seeds with eggplants. Mature eggplant seed is rock hard when pinched between two fingernails; immature seed is soft, dents easily, and often pops like a little zit.
But mature dry beans are incredibly durable, too. And it required a bit of trial and error to keep them from getting cracked and damaged when threshing with the wood chipper. (Yup, threshing with a wood chipper.) One batch of Orcas went through beautifully. But the next batch of the very same bean got beat up really bad; we had to adjust the chipper in terms of speed and time-in-the-flails to minimize the damage.
Our solution for getting the seed out of the eggplants was a little hand-cranked food mill. Absolutely nothing fancy. And absolutely nothing originally designed for harvesting seeds. It took a fair bit of jiggering to figure out the best way to use the thing but once we had a system down, it made short work of the eggplant. No damage at all to the seeds. The resulting heap of eggplant pulp was dumped in a bucket of water, letting the mature seed sink and pouring off the rest. Just like with peppers and tomatoes.
The hand-cranked food mill is one of many creative solutions we’ve used to efficiently extract seed. And just one more example of the cool stuff we get to do on a small seed farm.
Matt Kelly currently works with Fruition Seeds helping to sow, grow, harvest, pack and sell seed that is open pollinated, organically grown, and regionally adapted. He is a writer living in the Finger Lakes of New York, slowly turning his home into a self-sufficient, food-independent, backwoods place of his own. He writes regularly at Boonie Adjacent.
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