Harvesting pepper seeds in large volume is not a difficult job if using the fermentation process.
Why Ferment Pepper Seeds?
Fermenting some seeds can dramatically improve their ability to sprout. Fermentation removes germination-inhibiting substances from seed coats, makes them more permeable to water, and also helps reduce or control seed-borne diseases (for healthier seedlings).
Purposely fermenting seeds mimics the natural process of fermentation that occurs when ripe fruits are eaten by animals or drop to the ground and rot. When we intervene to keep seeds from fermenting naturally, it becomes necessary to ferment them artificially so they can complete their natural ripening cycle.
Seed Collecting Process
- Pick only fully ripe fruit
- Wash fruit and de-stem (if keeping fruit)
- Cull distorted or insect damaged
- Cut fruit open (discard if mold or insect damaged inside
- Cut or scrape out placenta with attached seeds
- Place extracted seeds in tall container (glass, plastic)
- Add well water just to cover, let sit 4-7 days, stir once a day
- When fermentation complete decant pulp from good seed
- Treat and rinse
- Dry and store
After picking, discard all fruit that is not fully ripe, is insect damaged or has a mold infestation. The seed from this type of fruit will be of low quality or they can contaminate your good seed.
Unripe fruit contains seeds that are not fully developed. They may produce week or stunted plants. The seeds from overripe fruit (dry pods) can start to germinate during a warm fermentation, causing them to sprout. Most of these seeds will be removed by the fermentation process.
Wash fruit thoroughly to remove any soil and debris. Use a brush on fruit that has crevices.
When cutting into fruit it is best to ware gloves and face protection to keep the capsaicin and capsaicinoids off your skin and a flying seed out of your eye. Once you start feeling the heat from capsaicin exposure on your hands its to late. The burning sensation can last for days. Read “Help I’m On Fire!”
Use a container the appropriate size for the volume of seed you are processing, quart or half gallon mason jar, one gallon pickle jar or five gallon bucket. Seed and pulp mass should not exceed about 1/4 the volume of the container. Store in a room that is between 75F and 80F degrees. Fermentation will be evidenced by bubbling and/or by the formation of a white mold on the surface of the mixture. As soon as the bubbling or white mold has been evident for 2-4 days, the seeds should separate easily by vigorous stirring once a day.
Adding to much water slows the fermentation process. Adding a few over ripe fruit can speed the fermentation process. Using clear containers allows you see the seeds separate fall to the bottom.
Add clean water to top, stir, let seeds settle to bottom then pour off pulp and bad seeds (immature seeds are light weight and float). Repeat several times until water in container is clear and free of debris.
Treat seeds by soaking in a mixed solution of 3 Teaspoon of 5% Chlorine Bleach or 1 Tablespoon of TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) into one quart of warm water for 5-10 minutes and then rinse for 10-15 minutes under cold running water. Using a sieve to contain the seeds is very helpful and makes it easy to rinse after treatment. This kills most seed born disease. Soaking seeds in an overly strong solution or for to long a time can kill the seeds. This step is precautionary and may not be required if your soil is disease free. All pepper seeds from Uncle Steve at usHOTstuff.com have been treated and are ready to plant.
To dry, let seeds drain well for 5-10 minutes. Bouncing seeds on a cotton cloth or towel helps remove extra water. Spread wet seeds on several layers of paper towels or news papers. If doing several varieties at a time be sure to label each batch. Many pepper seeds look alike. The thinner the seeds are spread the quicker they will dry. For faster drying replace wet blotter paper after 12 hours. Place in an area with good air circulation and low humidly for at least one week, two weeks is better. Label and store in air tight containers. If done properly seeds remain viable for 2-5 years or longer.
Before sale or use, preform a Germination Test to check the percentage of viable seed. Seed batches with less than 80% germination are not considered commercially viable and should not be sold but are fine for personal use. Seeds that have been stored for a long time will become dormant and require a much longer time to germinate.