Can I Save Seeds from Grocery Store Produce for Planting?

Good Questions

Q: I've got spring fever and I'm starting to think about what to plant in my garden this year. I'm thinking this year I want to grow some red peppers and tomatoes for sure.

Is there any reason I can't just save some seeds from produce purchased at my local grocery store to plant? Or will I have better luck purchasing seeds or seedlings instead?

Sent by Rebecca

Editor: Rebecca, you could certainly try, especially if you have produce from a local farmers market. It's great to try growing heirloom varieties yourself. But a lot of produce from the grocery store will be hybrid varieties that will either not reproduce at all from seed, or revert back to an earlier variety.

Also, some seeds need special treatment (drying, fermenting) before they will grow. Here are some good resources on seed saving:

Saving Seeds Successfully at Virtual Seeds
Saving Seed from the Garden at University of Illinois Extension
Seed Saving - Quick Tips for Saving Your Garden Favorites at About.com. Good tips here for figuring out which plants tend to be hybridized and which are open-pollinated.

Overall, if you want to experiment with seed saving it could be an interesting project, but unless you know that have reliable varieties, we wouldn't stake your whole garden on it. (And a side note: Depending on your zone, it's probably time to start your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants from seeds indoors right now!)

Readers, any tips for Rebecca?

Related: Garden 2010: Plant These Five Things Now!

(Image: Emma Christensen)