Collecting and saving the seed of cucumbers is an easy and enjoyable task. Cucumber seeds can be kept for between 4-10 years depending on the storage conditions.
The important thing about saving any seed is that you want to choose the best plants: the most vigorous, hardy, or heat/cold tolerant) and the best fruit: the best colour, texture, shape, size and most importantly taste. Once you identify the plant from which you want to get your seed you need to give it a bit of T.L.C. You should remove any side branches that might take energy away from forming fruit. It may also be a good idea to limit the number of fruit allowed to grow on that plant so that you maximize the quality of fruit/seed produced.
I have recently harvested my cucumber seeds. Here’s how I do it:
1. I identify my best performing plant and remove all lateral shoots. I pick any excess fruit often, not allowing them to grow much past pickling size. This directs energy back into the seed baring fruit, enhancing my yield. I wait until the fruit is large and has changed colour from a bright shiny green to a dull yellow or brown. If the fruit is beginning to soften or the plant is dying this is another indicator that the seed is ready for harvest.
2. Remove the fruit from the plant and bring inside. You don’t have to harvest the seed immediately. You can do it after a few days but, preferably before the fruit gets funky.
3. Get yourself: A chopping board, a sharp knife, a medium bowl, a colander and some paper or paper towel.
4. Cut the fruit open. Personally I like to cut it in half then cut down the sides along the seam of its three chambers. This makes it easy for me to handle and I don’t cut into any of the seed.
5. With your thumb push against the flesh, dropping the seeds into a bowl. You will notice that most of the seed will have a jelly like membrane surrounding the seed. Leave this attached.
6. Put some water in the bowl and place aside in a safe spot for a few days. Our aim is to leave the seed and pulp in the water, stirring each day, until the membrane dissolves and the viable seed drop to the bottom of the bowl. A foam may form on the surface which will indicate that the fermentation process is complete. This is important as it will kill any seed-borne diseases.
7. Rinse seed in a colander under running water.
8. Spread seed onto paper or paper towel to dry.
9. When dry place the seed into either a jar or envelope and clearly mark the details of the seed. Store in a cool, dark and dry area.