Freeze-Dried Garden Seeds

Recently, the head engineer at Harvest Right wondered what would happen if he freeze-dried seeds. Would they germinate?

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He freeze dried 10 different types of vegetable seeds, started them under grow lights inside his home, then transplanted them in a Garden Right geodesic dome greenhouse. It worked! Every single one of the seeds germinated – but you might be wondering what the practical applications would be. On a micro level, gardeners sometimes struggle to preserve heirloom seeds from one growing season to the next. If you don’t get your seeds absolutely dry or you don’t store them properly, they’ll mold and become unusable. On a macro level, it gets interesting.

There are thousands of seed banks around the world. They’re usually built in cold, remote places – like Svalbard. The problem is many of these cold, remote places are also politically or geologically unstable. Svalbard’s seed bank is a pretty safe bet. Even if the ice caps melt, the bank will be above sea level, there’s little chance of an earthquake, and it’s always frozen. Seeds can remain viable in the Svalbard seed bank for hundreds or thousands of years. So, in case there’s a major event and you need to grow some food from scratch, just put on your mittens and hike to Svalbard, right?

Or…you could just build your own seed bank. Granted we20160418-DSC_0027-cropped haven’t had 25 years to test our seeds to see if they’re still viable after a quarter of a century, but we have no reason to believe they wouldn’t be. With your own seed bank, you could establish or maintain a diverse garden for your family in case of emergency. Or, in case you just want to have your own, healthy, organic seeds. For example, a neighbor mentioned that she’d like to use her freeze dryer to preserve seeds from her flower garden for her granddaughters, who are still small. Imagine as an adult receiving heirloom seeds from your grandmother’s garden that were preserved while you were still a child. What a touching wedding, bridal or housewarming gift.

Freeze-dried seeds are easy to store, and easy to share and transport. They take up almost no room in the pantry. We recommend that you store them in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, just as you would your long-term freeze-dried foods. If you freeze dry seeds, let us know how it goes by sharing with the community on our Facebook page.

Comments

This is very interesting. How long were the seeds stored after freeze drying before they were reconstituted and used? I save seeds from the garden every year as well as purchasing seeds. If this process helps them last longer then the normal 2-5 year viability window it would be great to know. Anyone that does actual tests on this please post your details. Thanks

I want to know if the seeds were already dry before putting them in the freeze dryer or if they were pulled from the plant and immediately put into the freeze dryer. i will likely try both ways with my freeze dryer to test it out.

Thanks

I just wanted to drop a link here for everyone to reference. Someone actually tried getting a patent to do this commercially in 1973, with instructions and results listed on this page. They successfully tried flash-freezing as well as putting the seeds directly in the freeze-dryer. Not necessarily a brand new technique, but still relatively new, and from this patent information, is shown to produce healthier seeds than traditional drying methods. https://www.google.com/patents/US3950892

Thank you for the link Becky! I read it and understood most of it at the “kinda-sorta” level. I think it said that the seeds need to be dried to the normally acceptable level of moisture before being freeze dried? I guess what I am trying to figure out is if I buy heirloom seed packets, and then freeze dried the seeds, when rehydrated thru planting, would they still be viable? Would it help to soak the seeds first or do I just need fresh seeds? Thanks to any and all that can enlighten me!

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