Basil seeds are pretty easy to collect so I thought this would be the perfect plant to start with. Just a few flowering basil plants can produce hundreds of seeds.
From seed to harvest, basil leaves are ready to eat in as few as 45 days. To collect basil seeds will take a bit longer.
When a basil plant gets too hot or older, the plant starts to "bolt" producing flowers. If you want to keep the plant producing leaves, pinch off those flowers. Otherwise, the plant will expend energy growing those flowers and producing seeds instead of leaves.
For seed saving, allow those flowers to continue growing. When they start to look a little dried out, it's time to harvest seeds.
Bring a basket, box or large container out to the garden with a pair of scissors. Gently snip off the entire flower stalk. Inside of those flowers are tiny seeds. When you are done collecting flowers it's time to collect seeds.
I use a large bowl for seed collecting. Use your fingers to gently roll those flowers over the bowl and the seeds should fall out. Some people use a colander in the bowl to easily separate plant material and seeds. The tiny seeds should slip through the holes in the colander leaving just plant material in the colander when you remove it from the bowl.
Basil varieties can cross pollinate. Basil plants are pollinated by small flying insects. The different varieties will cross pollinate, so it is important to isolate a favorite cultivar by at least 150 feet.
There are several ways to grow multiple varieties of basil and avoid cross pollination.
The first is to stagger planting, which doesn't always work because the plants can still bolt at the same time.
The next option is to pinch off flowers from varieties you are not saving seeds from and collect seeds from one variety at a time.
Another option is to plant your basil varieties at least 150 feet apart. Cluster your planting of each variety and plant other crops in between. If you have a front yard garden and a backyard garden this can be an easy task.
Once you have collected your basil seeds, it is important to ensure that they are dry before storing them. Leave the collected seeds on a plate or drying screen for several days in a cool, dry spot away from direct sun.
Remember to label your seeds when you store them.
Stay tuned for more specific seed saving techniques and seed varieties. -Mary
If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!