Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How to Save Your Own Chile Pepper Seeds!

Have you ever seen or tasted an amazing chile and wished you could grow it yourself? We certainly have—and that's a huge reason Himalaya Hot began (click to learn more about our story). It is a very simple process to save your own seeds, and we want to give you the steps!

1. Find a ripe chile pepper
Jalapeño peppers from our garden at varied stages of ripeness
You can save seeds from nearly any fresh chile pod! For best results, you will need to find a pepper that is fully ripe. Most chile peppers start growing with a green color, but then they change to another color, such as red, orange, yellow or even other more exotic colors. For example, the jalapeño pepper is usually picked while it is still green and sold that way, but if it had been allowed to stay on the plant longer, it would have eventually turned red. Seeds from most unripe chile peppers will not be mature enough to grow anything. You can also save seeds from dried chiles, and in rare occasions you can even rescue a seed from a spice mix. It will not work to save seeds from smoked chiles. It will also not usually work to save seeds from frozen chiles or any that have been preserved in liquid.

Bhutanese Dallay Khorsani
2. Remove the seeds
Seeds for all chiles are found on the inside of the fruit (pod). You will need to cut open the pod to get to the seeds. You can then use your knife or fingers—with gloves—to scrape the seeds out.

3. Dry the seeds
You can immediately plant the seeds if you are ready (see our Chile Growing Guide). However, if you are not ready to plant them immediately, you will need to dry them to let most of the moisture out. Spread the seeds out on a paper plate, napkin, or newspaper and let them dry at room temperature for about 7-14 days. If this step is skipped, the seeds will rot from moisture. If the seeds can bend, they may still need more drying time.

4. Store the seeds
Seeds drying on a paper towel
You can store the seeds in any container that is free from moisture. We use small plastic or paper envelopes. Be sure to write the name of the chile variety on the container so that you can remember what they are! Store the seeds in a cool, dry, dark place. (Refrigeration is fine, but freezing may ruin your seeds, as the small amount of moisture inside will expand and burst the delicate cells of the seed.) Properly stored seeds will remain viable for many years. We have heard reports of properly stored seeds remaining viable for 15 years.

When you are ready to grow your own chiles from these seeds, check out our Complete Seed Starting and Chile Growing Guide!

Important notes!
  • Please use gloves when saving seeds. We are crazy chileheads with extremely high heat tolerance, and we eat the hottest chiles in the world whole (see John eating one here). Even if you are like John and routinely eat chiles with 1,000,000+ scoville heat units, gloves are important! John has learned this the hard way many times! The first time was because he was too macho to use gloves when saving seeds from superhots, and the other times were from forgetting to bring gloves. The heat chemical in chiles can stay on your skin for a long time after you touch the seeds, and it can burn your eyes and other parts of your body. It can also burn other people you may touch. This is extremely important if you are around children or use contact lenses!
  • Have a plan to separate and identify different varieties. If you are dedicated enough to save seeds from one kind of pepper, you will soon find yourself saving more! It is very important to have a system to separate different kinds of seeds if you are drying many at once, and it is important to also label them clearly. We recommend using very separate paper cups/plates and writing on them. There is nothing more frustrating than having "mystery" seeds because you mixed them up.
  • Inform/warn others about your seeds. Our first time drying seeds, we had carefully arranged six different varieties to dry—and they were all extremely rare Bhutanese varieties. The next time we came in to the room, we found that someone had turned on a fan which blew all of the seeds onto the floor! It was a terrible mess, and we lost many precious seeds. So be sure to let you family and friends know not to disturb your seeds. Also be sure to warn them if there are children around.
That's all it takes to save your own seeds! We hope you find this helpful! Let us know if you have any questions!

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