Eggplants are one of the few vegetables in the garden that are just as ornamental as they are delicious. You’d be hard-pressed to find one that can add rich shades of purple to the vegetable garden. Even purple tomatoes are more red with a blue blush.
Eggplants are not only a colorful addition to your garden but are also one of the easiest to save seeds from. Eggplant seeds can only be harvested from fully ripe eggplants, which means waiting until your eggplants turn from purple to yellow or brown and the skin loses its glossy shine. After removing the seeds, dry them and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place.
When Can I Save Eggplant Seeds?
Eggplant seeds are most viable when the eggplants themselves are fully ripe. However, eggplants are normally always picked before they’re ripe. The flesh of ripe eggplants is too fibrous, tough, and bitter to eat. Even though the eggplants we eat may have lots of seeds in them, they are not fully developed and therefore will have poor germination.
Eggplants are completely ripe for seed saving when they turn very firm and yellow or brown in color and lose their glossy appearance.
Most eggplants are ready to pick for eating within 70 to 90 days from transplanting, so you will have to wait at least several weeks longer until they turn that characteristic brown/yellow color. Generally, larger eggplant varieties take a longer time to ripen than smaller varieties.
You can leave one or two eggplants on the plant until they are fully ripe; one large eggplant will contain enough seeds for a home garden for years. You can still continue picking other young, fresh eggplants for eating.
I like to tie a string around the stem of the eggplants I want to keep for seeds so I don’t accidentally harvest it early.
Eggplant Flowers and Pollination
Eggplants are one of the easiest vegetables to save seeds from. They are part of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, peppers, groundcherries, and tomatillos. Eggplants, like all nightshades, are all self-pollinating with perfect flowers, so their flowers have both female and pollen-producing male parts.
You can still increase pollination success by periodically giving your plants a little shake to release pollen, or use a electric toothbrush to vibrate the flowers, but most of the time this is not necessary as the wind will do a good job of helping you flowers release pollen.
How to Save Eggplant Seeds
Once your eggplants are fully ripe, having turned yellow or brown and lost their glossy appearance, you can pick them and immediately start harvesting the seeds.
There are a two approaches to saving eggplant seeds. One is to cut them into thin slices and use a knife to scrape out the seeds until you have enough of them.
Another good option is to use a cheese grater to grate the eggplants starting from the bottom, which will make it easier to wash and separate the seeds from the pulp.
If you have a lot of eggplants to process for seed-saving, the Seed Savers Exchange recommends cutting them into cubes and blending them in a food processor with some water. Some seeds may get damaged so I would do this in small batches to make sure you’re not blending up your seeds.
Once you’ve separated your seeds, you can rinse them in water. Viable seeds will sink to the bottom while undeveloped or unviable seeds will float to the top. You can repeatedly fill and pour out a container with water until only viable seeds remain at the bottom.
Drying Eggplant Seeds After Harvesting
Unlike tomato seeds which should be fermented before washing and drying, eggplant seeds can be collected and dried right away.
Spread out your eggplant seeds on a paper towel, paper plate, or piece of cardboard and let it air dry in a place with good ventilation for at least a week.
Never use an oven or food dehydrator to dry your seeds as you will end up killing most of your seeds.
How to Store Eggplant Seeds
Eggplant seeds should be stored in an airtight container or resealable bag, and placed in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Always make sure your seeds are completely dry before you store them to avoid them getting moldy.
You can also keep your eggplant seeds in a container with a silica gel pack to absorb excess moisture, but if you’ve completely dried your seeds, this is unnecessary unless you live in a very humid climate.
How Long Do Eggplant Seeds Last?
Eggplant seeds can easily last 4 years or more if dried and stored properly. I’ve had old eggplant seeds germinate after nearly 10 years, however the older the seeds, the slower they will germinate and fewer seeds will sprout.
Related Questions About Saving and Storing Eggplant Seeds
Should I Worry About Cross-Pollination?
If you are only growing one eggplant variety in your garden, you do not need to worry much about cross-pollination. Eggplants will not cross pollinate with other nightshades like tomatoes or peppers. It’s very unlikely that the flowers will be visited by a bee carrying pollen from a different type of eggplant before it can self pollinate.
If you are growing more than one variety of eggplant or you want to be 100% certain that your eggplant won’t cross with a neighbor’s eggplant, you can use a cloth or plastic bag and tie it around one or two of your flowers before they open, then when you see they’ve self-pollinated and little eggplant fruits are growing, you can remove the bag and tie a little string around the stem to remind you which ones have been isolated.
But if your eggplants do cross-pollinate with another variety, it can be fun to save the seeds and plant them the following year to see what kind of cool new hybrid eggplant you’ve created.