QUESTION: Is there a way to save seeds from eggplant? How do you get seeds from eggplant? -Tami C.
ANSWER: The most important thing to remember regarding saving seeds from eggplant is to only use seeds from open-pollinated plants. Open pollination is pollination by wind, insects, birds or other natural causes, and open pollinated eggplants contain seeds that are the best suited for cultivating year after year in your garden.
If you try to save and use seeds from a hybrid eggplant, it won’t work. Choosing open pollinated seeds conserves the genetic diversity of your garden plants. Open pollinated eggplant varieties produce seed that is true to type, providing seeds that will result in plants that are very similar to the parent plant. Though the seeds from hybrid plants can be saved, they will not be true to type, and may not even produce fruit bearing plants.
When collecting eggplant seeds, grow only one type of eggplant in a single garden area. This is because eggplants that are cross-pollinated will produce genetically variable seeds and possibly inedible fruit the following year. Keep your particular eggplant variety at least 50 feet away from all other types of eggplants to ensure you get the same kind.
Once the eggplant is overripe and inedible, it is time to start collecting the seeds. The eggplant should appear dull and off-colored. Overripe purple eggplants begin turning tan or brown and white and green eggplants start to take on a yellowish color. An overripe eggplant is typically hard and shriveled.
Slice open the overripe eggplant and separate the flesh from the seeds, putting the seeds in a bowl of water and rinsing away the pulp. Next, strain the seeds, pat them dry and spread them out on a tray to dry no more than two seeds thick.
If you want viable seeds that you can use next spring, make sure the seeds are thoroughly dry before storing them. Store in a cool place out of the sun where the humidity can be maintained between 20 and 40 percent. Eggplant seeds typically take two to four weeks to dry.
After storing your eggplant seeds in a jar for the winter, watch for moisture build up in the jar. If you see it sweating, your seeds are too wet and could easily become moldy and useless. Act quickly and some silica gel capsules or another desiccant imminently to save wet seeds from mold issues. If you choose not to store them in a jar, you’ll need to protect your seeds from insects in some other way. Consider a sturdy zip-locking plastic bag, but again, ensure the seeds are completely dry before sealing.