Seed Saving: Tomatoes


Once you pick a beautiful, ripe tomato and start munching away, the seeds will start falling out all over the place. They are slippery and slimy and make a big mess when you really are enjoying your fresh, juicy tomatoe. Clearly not hard to find seeds here. But what do you do with them all if you want to plant this same, amazing tomato again next year (for free)?

In my efforts to learn how to save seeds for all the plants we grow here, Tomatoes are high on the list. They aren’t as simple to save as squash or bean seeds, but it only adds one extra step. You need to ferment the seeds to remove the gel like coating that encases them. Don’t see the word “ferment” and freak out, it’s very easy!

First make sure you have open pollinated tomatoes. Many hybrids or GMO varieties produce sterile seeds that will not produce tomatoes. For more about which tomatoes to grow to save seeds, check out this post.

When you cut open a tomato, you will see compartments that the bundles of seeds are kept in all throughout the tomato. All you have to do is scoop the seeds out into a cup of water. Make sure you get the seeds out of all of the compartments. I usually end up cutting the tomato into pieces so that I find all of the hidden spots. Hint: Dipping seed covered hands into the water will help get them all into one spot.

Make sure all the seeds you have collected are fully submerged in the water and add another inch or so of water beyond that. Give it a good stir, then cover with cheese cloth or paper towel. Let sit for 2-3 days. Warmer temperatures need less time, colder needs longer. This is the fermenting. It may smell funny, it’s working.

After the third day, I like to pour off the gross water and give the seeds a good rinse. If seeds are floating away with the dirty water, they aren’t likely good seeds anyway. Let them go . Once the seeds are rinsed, lay them out to dry. I use a paper towel to spread them out on. Let them dry for a couple days, again depending on how warm and dry it is where you are. Full sun will damage the seeds, so no quick drying in a sunny window.

Once the seeds are dry, pick them off of the paper towel and store them in a cool, dry, dark place until you need them. I keep mine in plastic bags or old vitamin jars (glass if I have it). They should stay for around 4 years. Before I put them away, I do like to test for viability so that I know the seeds will grow.

Happy Gathering!

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