One of my new year’s resolutions was to learn to save seeds. Out of all the things we planted in our garden, I only managed to save tomato seeds this year. But hey, it’s a start.
Selecting Your Tomatoes
1. Choose heirloom. Make sure you are NOT saving seeds from hybrid plants- you must find “open pollinated” seeds to save. (Hybrid plants will not produce consistent offspring, so saving seeds will not yield the same qualities as the parent tomato.) This sounds more complicated than it is. If your tomato is an heirloom- which will always be advertised at the grocery store or if you’re at the Farmer’s Market, your farmer can easily tell you- that means it’s open pollinated and you’re good to go.
2. Choose beautiful, ripe tomatoes. You want to save seeds from tomatoes with the best traits. Choose ripe, nicely shaped tomatoes to save seeds from.
3. Maintain genetic diversity. If possible, save seeds from more than one tomato, and even from more than one plant of the same variety. Again, choose tomatoes from healthy looking plants, not weakened or diseased plants.
Once you have your tomatoes, it’s ridiculously easy to actually save the seeds.
Saving Tomato Seeds
Step 1: Cut the tomato in half and squeeze or scoop the seeds and gel out into a glass jar (I use these half pint mason jars). Eat the rest of the tomato. If you’re saving multiple varieties, be sure to label the jars!
Step 2: Add a 1/2 cup (or a little less) water to the seeds, put the lid on the jar, and let it ferment for 3 to 5 days somewhere out of direct sunlight. (I used my kitchen counter, I just took the picture outside because my kitchen counter was messy…)
According to the Master Gardeners, fermentation is not absolutely necessary, but it’s a good idea because it
- makes the seeds easier to separate from the gel
- helps sort out bad seeds
- reduces some seed-borne illnesses
- eliminates a germination inhibitor
- is considered good etiquette if you’re going to trade your seeds with other people
A layer of white mold will likely develop on top, but that’s okay.
Step 3: After fermentation, carefully remove the white, moldy film. I just scooped it off with a spoon.
Step 4: Add some more water to the jar and shake gently or stir. The good seeds will sink to the bottom, so let it settle for a minute and then carefully pour off the floating seeds and remaining pulp. Repeat this process (adding water, shaking, pouring) until you have clean seeds. Here you can see the seeds and pulp layers:
Step 5: Drain and dry the seeds. Use a paper towel (or if you’re paperless like me, use a flour sack or dish towel!) to remove as much water as possible from the seeds. Then lay the seeds flat on any of the following: a screen, a paper plate, or a flour sack/dish cloth. Do not use plastic or ceramic plates because the moisture needs to be able to wick away from the seeds as they dry. I used a flour sack and it worked great. If you’re drying more than one variety, be sure to label your drying seeds!
Step 6: Store your seeds in an air tight container. Seeds will keep for years at room temperature, or for extra protection, you can store in the freezer. If you store in the freezer, let your seeds come to room temperature before opening the jar to avoid moistening the seeds with condensation.
And that’s it! Let’s review: Squeeze seeds into jar, cover with water, let sit for several days, drain, and dry. BAM. Tomato seeds for next year.
Thanks again to the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County for having such a handy dandy document on the Internets.
Have you ever saved seeds?
-AshleyPAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: To support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for supporting our efforts at Whistle Pig Hollow!