Harvesting Pepper Seeds in Bulk Quantities

Pepper Pods in Blender
Pepper pods in blender, ready for seed extraction

Collecting seeds by hand is time consuming, meticulous and potentially painful work. Even with care and patience, removing the fruit and pulp to produce relatively clean seeds can be a challenge. Throw in the need for gloves and potentially safety glasses (to prevent seeds from getting flung up into the eye – unbelievably, it has happened). For anything more than a few peppers, seed collection becomes quite the project.

Using a Blender to Collect Seeds

With the aid of a decent variable speed blender, seed collection is not only easy, it also does a good job of producing clean seeds.

  1. Open windows near your work area. If you're taking seeds from very hot peppers, then you may also want a fan and a breathing mask. Pepper vapors will likely go airborne, and for the hotter varieties, this can make breathing quite uncomfortable.
  2. Pick healthy, fully-ripe peppers from the desired plants and add the pepper pods to blender, stem and all.
  3. Fill the blender 1/3 full with water and make sure cover is snug.
  4. Use blender to separate peppers and immature seeds from good seeds.
    1. Pulse blender on slowest speed for 2-10 seconds at a time for a few times. The peppers will gradually get chopped into smaller pieces. The chopped peppers and immature seeds will tend to float to the top, while the good seeds will tend to sink to the bottom.
    2. Pepper Seeds Ready for Cleaning
      Pepper seeds are ready for cleaning when water turns mostly clear
    3. Use the high-intensity spray setting on your kitchen sprayer to add water by spraying the water jet into the top layer of chopped peppers. Do this a few times. Replace blender cover for a secure fit.
    4. Pulse the blender again a few times on its lowest setting.
    5. Tap the side of the blender to free up some of the seeds that may have stuck toward the top. There will still be plenty of seeds at the top mixed in with the chopped peppers. That's Ok, they're likely immature.
    6. Pour off top layer of floating pepper fragments and immature seeds into sink. Use drain mesh or paper towel to capture for composting, if desired.
    7. Use water jet spray to fill blender back to 1/3 full and repeat blending process until water becomes mostly clear with few pepper fragments and seeds floating to the top.
  5. Pour water, floating seeds, and pepper fragments from blender to leave only a small amount of water and the bottom seeds for cleaning.
    1. Use the water jet to vigorously spray the seeds. No need to pulse the blender anymore.
    2. Let settle, then pour off the floating pepper fragments and most of the water.
    3. Do this a few times until seeds are mostly clean. A few pepper fragments mixed in with the good seeds is Ok. When dry, those will shrink to almost nothing.
    Cleaned Pepper Seeds
    Cleaned pepper seeds taken from blender
  6. Pour water and seeds from blender into a fine-mesh strainer to capture the seeds. You may have to rinse blender a few times to get all the seeds into the strainer.
  7. Place strainer on napkin to dry. Gently shake strainer periodically over the next couple of days to expedite drying.
  8. It's also a good idea to rinse the blender thoroughly and then fill with water and let it soak for a couple of hours to help remove capsaicinoid oils.

Allow seeds to fully dry before storing, usually 48-72 hours. Refrigerated storing of seeds is best. Take out of refrigerated storage 24 hours, or more, before planting.

Additional Resources