Hybrids vs. Open-Pollinated
There are so many varieties of pepper out there, some are open-pollinated varieties like heirlooms. Others are called hybrids, these tend to be some of the most popular varieties grown. The reason people grow hybrids is that they have been selectively bred to produce large uniform fruits like those that you see in a supermarket.
The issue with growing hybrids if you want to save seed is that hybrid seeds will not be true-to-type the following year. If you plant seeds from a hybrid pepper, you will get a range of plants in the nightshade family. Some may be good peppers, others may be nightshade berries, you won’t know until they grow.
Open-pollinated plants produce true-to-type seed. All heirlooms are open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated varieties are heirlooms. To know what you are saving and growing next year, save seed from open-pollinated pepper plants.
Cross-pollination is rare with peppers but possible. This occurs when the pollen from one variety of pepper fertilizes the stigma from a different variety of pepper. The result will be either a hybrid of the two varieties or a range of peppers that have characteristics of both varieties. This can be fun for gardeners to experiment with.
If you’d rather know what you’re growing and keep your seed pure, plant different varieties in different areas of the garden. Use other plants as barriers between to discourage wind and insects from carrying pollen across borders. You can hand-pollinate peppers to be absolutely sure you know what you’re getting.
How To Save Pepper Seeds
What you’ll need:
- Sharp Knife
- Paper Towel
- Plastic Bag
Select the fruit that you’d like to save seed from. Choose a mature and flavorful fruit from a healthy pepper plant to encourage traits like resistance, good flavor, and regional adaptation.
Cut the pepper in half and scoop out the seeds. Remove the seeds from the white membrane in the center of the pepper and the stem. The fruit can be eaten. Lay the seeds in a single layer on a paper towel.
Mark the paper towel with the variety saved and the date. Place it somewhere out of the way where it won’t be forgotten or jostled. Check it daily for signs of mold and once the seeds are completely dry put them into a labeled bag.