There always seemed to be something a little bit mystical and secretive about growing vegies beyond just buying some punnets of seedlings and whacking them in the ground. And yet, when you actually start doing it seriously, it suddenly all becomes clear and it's actually reasonably simple: Vegetables generally start as seeds, then with water and nutrients and sunlight they grow, produce vegetables and more seeds!
So I've started experimenting with seed saving from a variety of vegies and herbs, and it's going really well. Actually this post could probably belong on the "It's all just a learning experience" page, as that's exactly what I've been doing: saving seeds where I can work out how to do it - some are easy but others less obvious - and then reusing them in the garden in the next season. I'm now collecting so much seed that we've started to put together little packets to give to customers at Shantell's restaurant. Hopefully other people will be encouraged to give it a go too.
Many varieties flower and then produce seed pods that will dry out and then burst open to reveal the seeds. The secret is in letting the flowers stay growing on the plant until the pods appear, rather than picking the flowers too early. I've been picking whole stems of plants such as rocket and coriander; the heads of chives and spring onions; and bean and pea pods. Put them in a warm, dry place to completely dry out, on a large plate or dish to catch any seeds that pop out before you get to them. Don't hang them up to dry, or the seeds might fall out and you'll lose them. And the other big tip is to separate the varieties onto different dishes so that the seeds don't get mixed up!
Other varieties of course have the seeds inside the fruit or vegetable. So with those it's a matter of gathering the seed (from tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin, capsicum etc.), rinsing off any excess flesh, then drying them out well. The key to these is remembering to save some rather than eating them all, or throwing them out with the peelings!
I'm in the early stages of learning about all of this, but there is lots of information available if you want to know more. There are also local Seed Saver groups who swap seeds and work to continue heritage and rare breeds. Or do what I've done, and give it a go, it's all just a learning experience!