Saving pepper seeds is in many ways quite similar to saving tomato seeds. However, there are a few differences that need to be taken into consideration. Natural cross pollination is more likely for pepper plants, with average reports from tests to be about 42%, an in some cases being as high as 91%.
If you’re saving pepper seeds, it’s also important to remember that hot and sweet peppers will readily cross, causing potentially next year, your sweet peppers to be hot and your hot peppers to be sweet. The best way to avoid cross-pollination is distance, but since home gardeners don’t generally have the luxury of endless space, a barrier method is usually required. For more information on isolation techniques please visit this article.
- Peppers (to save seeds from)
- Rubber or latex gloves
- Seed envelopes
Like saving seeds for any other plant, you want to choose the fruit you save seeds from with care. You want to save the seeds from the largest, healthiest fruit and plants as possible in order to pass along the best genetics you can to future plants. Particularly if you live in a climate with a shorter growing season, I suggest selecting seed from the earliest ripening fruit in order to encourage next years crop to be earlier.
Peppers, unlike some other vegetable varieties, don’t require any special processing in order to save the seed. What is most important however is to make sure you are wearing gloves if you’re processing hot peppers. While your mouth and stomach may be able to stand the heat, the capsaicin in the hot peppers (the chemical that gives them their heat) will stick to your hands, and transfer to any other surface you touch, including your eyes. It’s extremely painful and the burning can last for hours. I can’t stress enough how important it is to wear rubber or latex gloves if you are processing hot peppers (can you tell this comes from personal experience?).
If you are processing sweet peppers, gloves aren’t required as the capsaicin content is low.
Once you have your peppers you’re saving seeds from, cut them in half vertically. Scoop out all the seeds and place them on a surface to dry. Butchers paper, wax paper, tin foil, a coffee filter, a paper plate; any of these will work well.
Place your seeds in a dry area where they won’t be knocked around, and wait. Generally within seven days, unless you live in a particularly humid climate, will be ample time for your seeds to dry out.
Peppers last for about two years in regular storage conditions. If you wish to keep them viable for longer, be sure to place them either in cool or cold storage.
Place your pepper seeds in paper envelopes and put them in a container. Include a desiccate in this container, especially if you live in a humid climate. Store in a cool, dry area like a pantry.