Saving Arugula Seeds

A new question came in on the wire this week:

“My crop of arugula has bolted / flowered. How do I get the seeds so I can store them and plant again next fall?”

I have fond memories of saving arugula seeds – my first seed-saving experience, in fact.  It’s about as easy as it gets when it comes to seed-saving.  Here’s how it works:

Your arugula will send up little white flowers with dark veins.  It sounds like this part has already happened.  Then little seed pods will form along the stem.  These can be eaten fresh but beware, they are very spicy – they have a strong radish flavor.  Next, the whole plant will start to turn brown.  Cut off water at this point and let nature take its course.  You may need to support the stems as they dry to keep them from falling over.

What happens next is up to you.  Some people cover the stems with old nylon stockings or paper bags to catch the seeds as the pods open.  I usually clip the stems and take the pods home when they’re ready.  You’ll know they’re ready when you hear a rattling sound when you shake the pods.  I hang them upside-down inside a paper bag for a week or so.

Then comes the fun part – threshing.  If your seeds are in a bag already, you can shake the bag or stick your hand in the bag and crumble the dried seed pods.  You’ll end up with a pile of tiny dark seeds mixed in with papery seed pod chaff.  To separate this out, you can do it the old fashioned way, which is to put everything in a shallow pan and blow the chaff off the top of the pile.  The seeds weigh more than the chaff, so they will stay put.  Another way is to put them in a sieve that has holes bigger than the seeds, but smaller than the chaff and shake.

After you’ve separated out the seeds, you can store them in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator, labeled with the date and year (for posterity’s sake).  Some folks store them in envelopes or jars.  Either works as long as you keep them in a cool, dry environment.

By the way – you’ll have more arugula seeds than you’ll know what to do with when you’re done.  Have a blast!

Does anyone else have a favorite seed-saving technique they’d like to share?  Post it here.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. cindie mcdonald

    My arugulla pods are green on the vine. Should I leave them there till they are dry and brown? We will be leaving for a few weeks soon. Should I cut the vine off and hang the still green pods in a paper bag as I have been reading to dry? thanks so much

    1. Christy

      I’d leave them until they start to turn brown at the very least. Then you can cut and hang them. You can bag them now while on the plant if you are worried about the seed pods bursting while you are away. That should keep them intact until you return.

  2. Sue

    This was a helpful article. Thank you. I am new to gardening (October 2018). I was learning to harvest arugula seeds but picked them too early… the pods are green and the seeds are green. Is this the edible stage? Also, will they still continue to go to the last stage even if picked? Will putting the lower end stem in water keep them growing to the end to dry, brown etc. ? Or are they a complete loss? Please advise. Thanks. 🙂

    1. Christy

      Hi Sue, gardening has its learning curve, so good for you for trying to harvest and save seeds. The green pods and seeds may not reach maturity if you put them in water, but it’s worth a try. They’ll either shrivel up and become nonviable, or they’ll dry down some degree. When they start to turn brown, take them out of the water and hang them upside down. You might have some luck there. This is the perfect kind of question for the folks at Seed Savers Exchange. You might try contacting them to see if they have any tricks for saving the arugula seeds from sadness.

  3. Jacob

    I make fancy mustard and was wondering if I could use arugula seed the same way that I do mustard seed, given that they are closely related?

    1. Christy

      Jacob, I did a quick search and found one post on a forum from a person who says they use arugula seeds to make a “Mustard-like” sauce. So heck, go for it. Arugula is in the brassica family, as you said, related to mustard. The seeds pods are narrower but similar in size. I imagine the arugula seeds would impart more of a bitter or spicy taste, but please let us know what it actually tastes like.

  4. Sarah

    So I left a bunch of leaves on the plant to photosynthesize in order to develop seeds. The seed pods are now formed … can I eat the rest (most) of the leaves now or would that stop the seeds from maturing?

    1. Christy

      Hi Sarah, Once arugula has set seed, the leaves are usually too bitter to eat. Most people don’t enjoy them at that point. Do a taste test and if you still don’t mind the pungent taste, feel free to pick a few more leaves. I have a feeling you won’t, though. The good news is that if you let your arugula go to seed as you are, you’ll probably never have to plant it again. They volunteer everywhere!

  5. Christy Wilhelmi

    You can cut the seed heads off and hang them upside down somewhere else once the seeds form and start to dry. They can complete their drying process indoors, then you can replant your garden.  

  6. Susan Graves

    I am planning to harvest enough roquette seeds to experiment with cooking with them. Was wondering if I must allow the plants to remain in the garden taking up space until the seed pods are thoroughly dried. Sounds like I do need to wait for the rattling sound. The threshing would be nigh impossible otherwise.

  7. Anonymous

    Sound super keep it up

  8. Christy Wilhelmi

    It depends on how you have been storing them.  I have arugula seeds that date back about 6-8 years and they are still good because I store them in a jar in the refrigerator with several desiccant packets at the bottom of the jar. 

    As I tell my students, the 3 things that will make your plants grow are the same 3 things that will lower the viability of your seeds:

    Heat, light and moisture

    Keep your seeds in a dark, dry, cool location and you can expect for them to keep producing for years. 

  9. laurie

    How long are arugula seeds viable?

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