How To Save Tomato Seeds {With Photo Tutorial}

In 2013 I ventured into the world of saving seeds, and I started with tomatoes. I followed some lovely directions I found online from the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County(this), and I will summarize them for you here.


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!

Saving Tomato Seeds

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…)

Saving Tomato Seeds

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.

Saving Tomato Seeds

 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:

Saving Tomato Seeds

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!

Saving Tomato 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?



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  1. Thanks for the step by step pictures! Very timely, as I was just getting ready to save some tomato seeds for the first time myself, too!

  2. Great idea !! I know every year I seem to end up with a few volunteer tomato plants from leftovers in the garden that stayed over winter- and they definitely are NOT the hybrids I planted the prior year, usually a golf ball sized red tomato- fine enough to eat but certainly no prize winner.

  3. Angie Konn says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve never saved seeds, but I think I will now!

  4. I can remember my grandpa saving seeds from tomatoes, gourds, squash, cucumbers, watermelons, etc. For the small seeds, he would roll out a roll of toilet paper and place a few seeds every so many squares. After they dried, he would roll the paper up and the seeds were evenly spaced, ready to be planted.

    • Grandpa was a genius! Thanks for the idea.

    • Thank you grandpa!! Can’t wait for Spring to use his idea. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you La Verta for sharing what your brilliant Gpa did when saving seeds on toilet paper! I used the information from this article and combined it with your grandpa’s advice. It was the first time I saved seeds ever and now have them planted and growing big! Thank you! Thank you! I always said I had a hard time growing tomatoes…not anymore!

      My friend also said I could take a tomato and squeeze the seeds in the dirt to regrow new plants and that worked last summer.

  5. I was planning to make this the year to start saving seeds…its almost (hopefully) spring here so I will be off on the right foot…thank you!

  6. Hey Thanks for this! I am a newbie to organically gardening and a healthier lifestyle, so finding this about seed saving is a keepie for me for next fall when it’s time to save. Yay! ~Pj

  7. I have been saving seeds from flowers for years, with good success. This year I have about six tomato plants of different sizes and shapes just appear in my flower gardens! So I was wondering just how to save the seeds from a couple of real beauties! So this information is great and timely. Thank you very much.

  8. Rosemary Aronson says:

    I brought back these miraculous tomato seeds from Sorrento, Italy. I planted & nurtured them from March to June. Despite losing some to wind and weather, I have 3 beautiful plants with a fair amount of fruit from which I will save seeds via your instruction. Fingers crossed! TY


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