Harvest seeds from store-bought produce for your starter garden!

Published 7:29 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

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I remember some years ago when I hit the jackpot with a lemon that I bought at Walmart. It was perfection in scent, taste, color, and size. I needed that lemon in my life. I had better chances of winning the lottery than finding another lemon like that at Walmart.

Sheri Brooks

I’ve always wanted to grow a lemon tree in a pot. Why not try with the seeds of that perfect lemon? While there are endless suggestions online about how to harvest seeds, they are unnecessarily complicated for my tastes. I’m a lazy gardener at heart, so I plucked the seeds out, rinsed them off in cold water, and put them on a paper towel to dry out for a week. I started the seeds indoors. The first seed to sprout was put in a pot and kept indoors until that Spring. It lived for two years and was almost three feet tall before a freakish week of icy weather killed it. I gambled that it could survive the weather and lost.

Oddly enough, around the same time I purchased some green onions and put them in a vase with water. The intent was to cook with them later. It sprouted roots in the vase. I put it in a pot outside. Eight long years passed and that plant refused to die. It lives with a friend now.

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I use the same lazy seed collecting method with all purchased produce: I collect the seeds, rinse them off with cold water, and leave them on a paper towel to dry during the week on a counter. You can start growing the plants indoors if you are impatient like me. When the season is welcoming to outdoor plants, add that plant to your patio!

Now, I would like to stress that when I talk about harvesting seeds it’s from big box store produce. If you buy produce from farmer’s markets or small farms directly, please ask the grower if they are fine with you taking generations of hard work and dedication to add to your garden. I think of it like this: when you buy Microsoft Word, there are usually a bunch of pictures that you can use that come with the program. Microsoft provided that artwork. You are acting on good faith that the artist was properly compensated. Planting the seeds that you harvested from a significantly smaller local farmer is like seeing an artist’s work on the street, taking a picture of it, and selling prints of that person’s art on Etsy. Ask the farmer if it’s fine to plant their seeds for your own personal use. The answer is no unless they enthusiastically say yes.

Harvesting seeds is a fun little way of getting more bang for your buck with any produce that you purchased! For more information, visit the Alabama Cooperative Extension System online or in person to collect free pamphlets on gardening in Alabama. The office is located at 306 South Three Notch Street. Happy Planting!