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General information and discussion about cultivating melons, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and gourds.

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Old August 19, 2016   #1
greenthumbomaha
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Default Saving Cucumber Seeds

A few got away from me so I thought I would use them for seeds. I had no idea it took many weeks. Loosely paraphrased from Mother Earth News:

Thoroughly ripen on the vine - they will enlarge and turn yellow.
They should stay on the vines until the vines are dead.
Bring the cucumbers into the house and let them ripen further on a dry shelf
When the cucumbers begin to turn soft, scoop out the seed mass and put it into a large jar of water, ferment for five days, then separate the scum from the good seeds that have sunken to the bottom.
Rinse the seeds in a colander, then dry hem on screens for at least three weeks, or until the seed snaps when bent in half.

Takes a lot of patience.
- Lisa
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Old August 19, 2016   #2
kath
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It does take a lot of time, Lisa, but I did it a couple years ago when Burpee stopped offering Burpfree cukes and I was growing out my last 2 seeds. I've had very good germination after following similar directions. It was definitely worth it for me.

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Old August 19, 2016   #3
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We have to remember that when we eat a cucumber we are eating a very immature fruit that is nasty when it is ripe.
The same goes for summer squash and okra to name a few.
Worth
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Old August 19, 2016   #4
greenthumbomaha
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Hats off to you Kath. I wonder why Burpee discontinued such a popular cucumber. Glad you were able to salvage it. Mine is common and I have too much important tomato stuff taking up space:0

Worth, nasty is an understatement and I never thought of a crispy cold cucumber as immature. So true! These are totally gross; misshapen and the color of outgoing baby product. It seems to have turned quickly too. I foolishly give it just one more day to get a little bigger and as soon as I turn my back it transforms into a baseball bat. Old habits die hard.

-Lisa
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Old August 20, 2016   #5
kath
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I guess it wasn't that popular, Lisa, but it is one amazing cucumber in my garden. I've trialed many and it was by far the best for taste, production and longevity, so I wasn't ready to let it go without trying.
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Old August 20, 2016   #6
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I actually let the cuke mummify and left it in an unheated porch til the spring.
As mentioned in post 1 let it get yellow on the vine and then some.
I planted the entire carcass in the spring and had a load of seedlings from it.
Japanese Soyu, the company stopped selling the seeds where I was buying them.
Hybrid seeds,so the fun may not last.
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Old August 20, 2016   #7
Zeedman
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The methods in the original post are basically the same as the ones I use. I allow one of the first cucumbers on each plant to ripen... provided that the plants are healthy, this does not stop production. Those ripe cucumbers are picked either before frost (and brought indoors to ripen further), or if they begin to show signs of decay.

The "begin to decay" is my trigger to remove the seeds, regardless of whether that stage was before or after harvest. The advantage of waiting that long is that there is a great deal of juice with the seeds, so no additional water is needed. The fermentation stage is pretty much the same as it would be for tomatoes, although it may take a little longer. Watch for the gel sacs to begin breaking loose from the seeds, at which time the seeds are ready to process.

Cleaning the seeds is not much different from cleaning tomato seeds (adding the fermentation to a tall container of water, allowing the good seeds to sink, and carefully pouring off the floating debris) - with one exception. Some of the good seeds may still have stubborn gel sacs attached, which will hold air bubbles & make them float at the top along with the debris. I beat the floating seeds vigorously with a wire whisk, which breaks the membranes & allows the good seed to sink. Without this step, a lot of good seed might be thrown away.

When the seeds are clean, I first spread them out on newsprint to wick away excess moisture, stirring them frequently to avoid sticking. Once the seeds are dry to the touch, I transfer them to trays to finish drying. As mentioned in the OP, the seeds breaking when bent is a fairly good indicator that the seeds are dry. In my Northern location, once the heater begins running & indoor humidity drops, the seeds will reach proper dryness for storage.

The same method can be used for Mexican Sour Gherkins & West Indian Gherkins. In the case of MSG, I just slice the ripe fruits in half, mash them, and allow the mash to ferment.

Cucumber seeds have incredible longevity; if properly processed & stored, they can have good germination for 5-10 years, even at room temperature. The cucumbers I planted this year had 100% germination, from 8-year-old seed.
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Old October 11, 2016   #8
shule1
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You don't necessarily have to let them ripen *that* long, although it might be ideal.

I've taken seeds from a huge, green cucumber taken from a live plant, and they had excellent, fast germination. I think it has more to do with how well-formed the seeds are than how old or ripe the cucumber is (same for tomatoes, despite what people say). Fruits can have early and delayed ripening, but I don't think this necessarily corresponds with when the seeds are ready (although that may be a useful rule of thumb if you don't want to risk having immature seeds). I thought maybe I should go on the safe side and plant lots of the seeds just to make sure I got at least a few plants (but I got loads of plants).

It can be hard to tell if an unripe fruit has mature seeds, though, but for tomatoes at least, I've found that they seem to be fine if the fruit is near its ripening point, even though it's not ripe; so, I don't balk at saving seeds once the fruit has only a small color change on it (and you get fewer seeds with spots on them this way, too). On the other hand, I've had several varieties without mature seeds even with totally ripe fruits; they might have been parthenocarpic, though (it seems they needed further acclimatization to get good seeds, because the ones that lived produced normal seeds after being in the garden longer). As for if it makes a difference in the next generation's mature plant quality and fruit quality when you save seeds earlier than total ripeness, I can't say.

Last edited by shule1; October 11, 2016 at 07:26 AM.
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Old October 11, 2016   #9
greenthumbomaha
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The aforementioned ugly footballs are still hanging on the vine. Tomorrow night is the first frost, right on the mark for my area. If I don't get to pick them, has anyone had cucumbers reseed themselves in a northern zone? Winter squash likes to volunteer for me, but I've never had a surprise cucumber.

- Lisa
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Old October 12, 2016   #10
shule1
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@Lisa

Our first regular frost this year is right now (we had a super light frost a couple Sundays ago, though, but it just wilted some patches of tomato leaves here and there without killing anything). There's already frost on the garbage can. There wasn't supposed to be a freeze today, or for a while, but the weather changed. However, this is a couple days after our average projected first frost date. We're covering stuff up and planning to do the sprinkler method with the tomatoes that are left with fruit on still (it's not supposed to frost again for a while). We spent a good time picking lots of stuff right after I checked the weather (peppers, tomatillos, ground cherries and tomatoes). There was a cucumber, too. I'm glad the Morelle De Balbis can take a freeze. I'm still waiting for my Tabasco peppers to get ripe (so, I covered them, and the okra and Cape Gooseberry ground cherries, too).

Last edited by shule1; October 12, 2016 at 04:00 AM.
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