When you have lots of chillies, save those pepper seeds for the next year. This way, you can start new plants from your favorite varieties, share extra seeds with friends or trade with other people to expand your current collection. Best of all, you can be sure that the seeds are high quality because they come from your own garden.
Pepper seeds can easily be harvested, but be aware that seeds from hybrid plants won’t grow true to the original parent plant. Also, seeds should only be saved from peppers that are a ripe color — seeds from pods in the immature green stage are less viable.
Here are three options for harvesting your chillies:
Harvest Dried Peppers
- Position your fresh chillies on paper plates or towels taking care not to overlap them. Single layers works best for allowing the airflow that speeds up the drying process.
- Place your plate or towel in a warm, dry location. Let them sit for a few weeks.
- Wait for the chillies to have a dry, leathery feel. Dried pepper skin is often wrinkled, and some chillies, such as cascabel, make a rattling noise when the seeds get loose.
- Label a small, ziplock baggie, coin envelope or small container with the name of your pepper and date.
- Cut open the peppers and dump the loose seeds into the container of your choice. The seeds should be dry at this point and ready for storage.
Harvest Ripe Chillies
- Put on a pair of gloves to keep the capsaicin from burning your hands. If you’re harvesting a super hot one, such as a Trinidad Douglah, you might want to put on a face mask too because those fumes can make you cough!
- Cut the chile pepper down the middle to expose the seeds on both sides.
- Position the pepper over a plate or cup and then scrape the seeds out with the knife. Leave the seeds out for a couple of weeks to let them dry. You can test the seeds for proper drying by pinching them with your fingernail — if you don’t see any indentation marks, they’re ready for storage
Use a Blender
- Cut the tops of your peppers off just under the stems.
- Place your peppers in a blender and add water. I usually pour enough water to cover the tops of the chillies.
- Blend slowly and for a few seconds at a time. You’re looking for the seeds to settle at the bottom. Once the pepper debris and immature seeds float to the top, scoop them out.
- Carefully pour the remaining mixture over a strainer to catch your seeds. Lay them out on a towel or plate for a couple of weeks to dry.
After harvesting, keep your seed containers in a cool, dark place. Your pepper seeds should last for about 3 years.
Again, you can use small envelopes like coin envelopes to hold your seeds. More popular is the small, Ziplock-style baggie, which you can get in a craft’s store like Michaels and sometimes Walmart. I often order mine directly from Amazon because you can get hundreds or thousands for a few bucks.
(Note: If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for new varieties to grow. Grab your “Ultimate Pepper Seed Vendor List” to get a list of reputable vendors that sell all kinds of unique and rare pepper seeds.)