The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Saving Eggplant Seeds

Eggplant seeds are processed much like tomatoes. The main difference is that tomatoes are allowed to ferment in the same liquid that is used to separate the seeds, while eggplant fruit is rotted first and then added to water to separate the seeds. Fair warning – rotten eggplant has a really nasty smell (the seeds, of course, are completely odorless).

Processing the eggplant to remove the seeds is very much like panning for gold. The seeds are heavier than the pulp, and they sink to the bottom while the pulp and other trash is poured out from the top. After a few rinse and pour cycles, you are left with nice clean eggplant seeds.

Yes, this is far more seed than any gardener could possibly need, but there are two reasons why I process so many:

  • Eggplants are an in-breeding variety. Even though you may only need a couple of plants to supply all your needs, if you are saving seeds, you need to plant as many as possible (six is considered the absolute minimum) in order to maintain genetic diversity in your plants and their seeds.
  • Part of the joy of saving seeds is being able to give them away. A large quantity of seeds from this batch was carried to West Africa by missionary friends who will be planting them in their garden and sharing them with the natives in their village. They also carried a number of other seeds from our garden and seeds that others have shared with us.

Probably the single best reference book for saving seeds is Seed to Seed, by Suzanne Ashworth. Sub-titled Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, it is filled with detailed information about the best way to process and store seeds for maximum long-term viability. It is an essential book for any Southern Agrarian.

Eggplant fruit thoroughly rotted and ready for seed harvesting. One is not sufficiently rotted and was not used. A slotted seedling tray was used to hold the fruit as it rotted.

The eggplant fruits are added to a bucket of water where they are squeezed into a slurry.

Remove any chunks of eggplant that are large enough to pick up. These will be added into the compost pit.

Carefully pour off the water and the pulp. The seeds will have settled down to the bottom of the bucket.

Continue pouring until just before the seeds start to pour out. The pulp that accumulates can either be added to the compost or washed into the grass with a hose.

Add water, swish it around, and pour. Continue cleaning the seeds until you can't remove any more pulp, then carefully pour out as much water as possible.

Air dry the seeds until they no longer clump together.

The semi-dry seeds are spread on a sheet of parchment paper in the dehydrator and dried for about 6 hours at 100° F. The steel nuts are used as weights to keep the parchment paper flat. A better method is to use binder clips from an office supply store, but in this case, I only had enough clips for one of the three trays I was using.

After the seeds have been fully dried, pour them into a clean, dry canning jar and screw the lid down tightly. They should be stored in a cool dark place.

The dehydrator that we use is the Excalibur large 9-tray, Model #3926T. It is a forced air unit and has a timer and adjustable temperature control. A good dehydrator should be a part of any homestead. We have been well pleased with our Excalibur.

13 Comments

  1. Thanks this was helpful 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this info. I have a couple of nice plants that I have let the eggplants get old on, and this information is invaluable! I would not have thought to let them rot first 🙂

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      July 22, 2014 at 8:42 am

      At first glance, it appears weird. Then, when you think about it, that’s what happens in nature – the fruit drops from the plant, falls to the ground, then it sits there and rots.

      As seed-savers, the big advantage to us is that letting the fruit rot makes it much easier to separate the seeds from the pulp. Removing all the pulp removes material that can hold moisture and micro-organisms that can reduce the viability of seeds that are to be stored for more than one season. Removing the moisture from seeds is key to saving seeds, so removing the pulp can really have a positive effect.

  3. Francis Rosenfeld

    December 24, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Thank you for the information, it was very useful.

  4. nishakrajan@gmail.com

    March 6, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Thank you.Am trying this soon..

  5. Where do you keep your eggplants as they rot?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      June 9, 2015 at 10:20 am

      I usually just set them on the ground in an out-of-the-way place to let them rot. You could just leave them right next to the plant, but I don’t like having rotting fruit in the garden – it just attracts more bugs.

  6. Thank you so much for this information. I have been a seed saver for almost 20 years. We grown only heirloom in plants in our garden and we grow organically. I have never been successful at saving eggplant seeds that would germinate very well. I know how to do tomatoes and cukes and other seeds you have to ferment but had no idea you did that with eggplant. I always just dug the seeds out. Don’t know how I missed this – but am thrilled to have this info – as it is time to save eggplant seeds. Blessings to you.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      September 7, 2015 at 11:26 am

      Lesa, I’m glad you found it helpful. One thing to keep in mind when it comes to saving seeds of eggplants is the number of plants you have. In the book, “Seed to Seed,” it says, “Always grow as many eggplants of each variety as possible to maintain the greatest amount of variation with a population. Six plants should be considered an absolute minimum.” (Seed to Seed, by Suzanne Ashworth, 2002, page 164)

      There are three books that I consider absolutely essential:
      Seed to Seed, by Suzanne Ashworth
      The Resilient Gardener, by Carol Deppe
      Breed Your Won Vegetable Varieties, by Carol Deppe

      In fact, anything by Carol Deppe is a great addition to your gardening library.

  7. Thanks for this info. I was just asking someone how to harvest eggplant seeds. I don’t have a dehydrator but I live in FL and it’s the dry season, so I think I’d be safe putting them under a screen outside.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      December 11, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      Amie, that should work just fine. Just keeping them in an air-conditioned room will work just fine also. If you leave them outside to dry, be sure that it’s only during the sunniest and driest part of the day. It’s easy to forget that in the morning and evening, the humidity can get pretty high.

  8. hi an many thaks for this info
    where is the best palce for the eggplants to be rotten?
    sunny and dry place?
    or just dry place? and how many day is enough?
    thank you in advance

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      October 29, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      The way I do it is I first decide which plants I want to save seeds from. Usually that means looking for the plants with the most fruit, best shaped fruit, and whatever other traits I might be looking for. I tie a piece of red marking ribbon to that plant, and I stop picking from that plant. The fruit will eventually start to rot on its own while still on the plant. Keep a close eye on it, and when it is really soft and mushy and seems like it is almost ready to fall off the plant, I pick it and either process it for seeds right then, or I leave it on the ground right next to that plant. Keep in mind that what we’re doing is trying to duplicate the way that the plants reproduce naturally. The only change is that just before the seeds are ready to get mixed into the dirt, we take them, wash them, and then dry and store them. There is no certain number of days – that varies from fruit to fruit and with the weather. Just go by what you observe.

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