Can I Plant Seeds from Grocery Store Vegetables?

Can I save the seeds from the hot peppers, squash, melons and tomatoes I buy at the grocery store and plant them in my garden?

The answer is yes! But...

Will they germinate?

Most likely yes! These store-bought vegetables will normally be easy to germinate because most are usually harvested when ripe. Except for green bell peppers which are harvested when the vegetable has not reached full maturity.

However cucumbers, peas and beans are harvested before their seeds have reached maturity. The seeds will not germinate because they have not finished growing.

What kind of results will I get?

That, we don't know.

The name of the cultivars (or variety) used by food producers is not mentioned at the grocery store. We know it's a cantaloupe melon, a red bell pepper, etc.  but which variety is it? We do not know. Also, we don't know if it's a hybrid or not... and often the answer is unfortunately yes. Seeds from hybrid vegetables will not produce plants identical to the original plants. So the nice tomato from the grocery store could turn into a medium, pasty, bland-tasting tomato once it bears fruit in your vegetable patch.

Would it help if I planted seeds from organic vegetables?

No. Organic and conventional growers can choose to use hybrid seeds so whether the fruit is certified organic or not, you face the same probability.

You should also take into consideration that some vegetables, such as squash for example, are easily cross-pollinated which can lead to some BIG surprises. You might plant the seeds of your grocery store-bought spaghetti squash and harvest a cross-pollinated squash. Which, for example, might look a bit like a zucchini but with less flavorful flesh that flakes like a spaghetti squash. Not really what you were going for.

Not to mention that often the vegetables sold at the grocery store come from lines developed for greenhouse cultivation or for a climate warmer than ours such as the United States or Mexico. These cultivars will potentially have trouble growing well in our climate and ripening on time in your garden.

So, is it worth saving a few bucks and taking the chance?

Months of work between sowing and harvesting for an 'uncertain' result? Maybe even some average tasting veg or a poor yield? That's up to you.

As a seed producer, one of our main considerations is safeguarding and preserving the wealth of our seed heritage.

Just think of these types of wonderful tomato that you can't get at the grocery store:

arrangement of heirloom tomatoes on a wooden table

By growing vegetables from seeds that we have selected, you open your garden up to an infinite range of flavours and colours! 

The vegetables sold in the grocery store often come from hybrids and come down to just a few dozen varieties. So, by choosing to grow varieties that are not grown by the giants of this world, by choosing non-hybrid, heirloom or heritage seeds, you can directly contribute to keeping our vegetable heritage alive.

Even if you do not save your own seeds, please think about encouraging the seed producers who do so year on year. This simple gesture helps to keep this incredible biodiversity alive and ensures food security for the future.

When choose seeds in this way, you're giving your garden the best start for the season. Not the mention the adaptability of these cultivars to our climate and regional growing conditions, and, of course, the exception flavour! 

Seeds are the beginning of everything that will follow. Taking the time to choose the right seeds, means putting the odds in your favour for a vegetable garden that lives up to your dreams.


Happy sowing! 

Julie Ross,

Seed producer since 2009