Some seeds from trees and shrubs will require to be separated from their fruit component in order to facilitate sowing and storage. In certain cases it is also necessary to store seed either from collection to sowing or from year to year. Both these factors have a bearing on a seed's viability, that is the proportion of a seed sample which is alive at any time.

The cleaning and extraction of seed from the fruit is often a tedious and time-consuming business, but it is necessary if seed is to be sown evenly.

Large dry fruits in capsules should be sieved to separate the individual seeds from the < apsules. Seeds that are shed direct from the fruits, as happens with many nut seeds such as oaks, chestnuts, hazelnut^, horse chestnuts and beech, are ready for sowing. It is simply a matter of picking them up.

Winged fruits should be dried sufficiently to separate the wings, unless, as with maple, each wing has its own seed. Where the wing encloses the seed or seeds, such as with cryptic fruited plants like hornbeam, then either each seed has to be picked out or the whole fruit has to be dried and the seed separated by rubbing and winnowing.

The extraction of seeds from berries or fleshy fruits depends on the size of the individual seeds and the texture of the flesh. Pome fruits such as crab apples, pears, medlars and quinces should have the flesh pared away before any attempt to extract the seeds is made.

Separate relatively large seeds with soft flesh, for example berberis, by squashing with a presser board and then swirling the material and some water around a shallow dish. The seeds will tend to gravitate to the middle and the flesh to the outside. Then pick off any berry skin that remains with the seeds.

Very fleshy fruits should also be macerated with a presser board before being left in a jar of warm water to ferment; keep in a warm place for a few days until the flesh ferments. Decant off any flesh that is floating, leaving seeds untouched in the bottom of the jar. Change the water two or three times to remove all the flesh. Then pick off any skin.

Cones of conifers are one of the most satisfying fruits to deal with. Collect the cones before they begin to shed their seeds, and place them in a paper bag in the airing cupboard. Shake regularly to separate the seeds.

Extracting seeds from very fleshy fruit

Extracting seeds from very fleshy fruit

1 Pare away excess flesh from extremely fleshy fruit.

2 Place residual fruit in a sieve and squash with a presser board to break down any flesh.

3 Drop residual mass into a jar of warm water. Leave in warm place to soak for a few days.

Some cones such as those from silver fir disintegrate and then the scales have to be separated. The gardener should never open cones by placing them in the oven as excessive drying can very easily cause the seeds to die. Some cones, such as those from cedars, do not open readily in response to drying; instead put them in a saucepan containing hot water (71o-82°C/160o-180°F) and maintain this temperature until the scales open up.

Place cones in a paper bag in an airing cupboard to dry out. Shake regularly to separate the seeds.

4 Decant off any flesh that is floating, leaving seeds untouched in bottom of jar. Refill jar with warm water.

Crumble small, dry seeds or ones that have wings by rubbing them between the hands.

Separate large seeds from their capsules by sieving out the detritus. Then pick out the seeds.

Panning fleshy fruit

Panning fleshy fruit

5 Remove the seeds from the jar once all flesh is cleaned off. Then pick off any remaining skin.

Squash soft flesh. Then swirl seed material and water round dish until seeds and flesh separate.

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