Gallery of Techniques and Procedures
The gallery illustrates different aspects of seed production, processing, and testing. Some of the material here supplements or expands on some of the information in our growing guides. Photos are provided as thumbnail images which are clickable for enlargement. See also the Contributed Articles section of Resources.
Extracting and processing hot pepper seed
One of the difficulties in processing hot pepper seed is avoiding contact with capsaicin, the constituent responsible for the heat of the hot pepper. One way to handle this is to run the peppers though a Corona grain mill. Peppers are placed in the hopper, where a rotating screw pushes them against a rotating grinding plate, liberating the seed from the pulp. If the fruits are small enough they can be added directly to the hopper, otherwise the fruits may need to be first cut into smaller pieces. One problem is that the fruit tends to "float" on top of the rotating screw. The fruit can be pushed down into the hopper with the aid of a 2" x 2" piece of wood. The wood should be labeled before the first use, indicating which end of the wood is hot. When processing peppers in this manner it is important to set the grinding plates far enough apart so that the seed is separated rather than ground. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and don't touch your face or skin.
Once the fruits have been ground into a mixture of seed and pulp, the "mash" is fermented for a short time (no more than 24 hours). Though fermentation isn't essential, it helps to further separate seed from the pulp and gives a greater yield of high quality seed. After the 24-hour fermentation, water is added to the mash, and the pulp and poor quality seed is poured off. The washing is completed until the water comes clear. Good seed sinks to the bottom and poor quality seed floats off in the wash. The seed is then collected in a strainer and set aside for drying.
Seed extraction using an apple grinder/press
An apple grinder/cider press can be used to speed up the process of wet seed extraction from certain vegetables such as watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Normally, seed extraction from eggplant can be labor-intensive because the large fruit has to be cubed or sliced before the fruit is macerated. Also, using a sharp knife for cutting the fruit often results in a small percentage of the seed being cut, thereby reducing seed quality and germination. For pepper seed extraction, the Corona grain mill provides a satisfactory solution provided the fruit-size and the seed lots are small, but for producing larger quantities of seed a better method is needed. Seed growers who are producing seed by the pound (rather than by the ounce) may find the apple grinder useful for improving the efficiency and economy of seed extraction. The press portion is not needed since the grinding is sufficient, though a second pass through the grinder may give better results. A 5-gallon bucket is used to catch and hold the pulp.
Photos are by Jeff McCormack, unless otherwise indicated.