Posted on 27 August 2007 by

Preserving Seeds – Part 1

Tomato CasualBy Tomato Queen

[This is part 1 of 2 two part series.]

It’s harvest time, and those of you enjoying fresh tomatoes (either from your own gardens or those from diligent farmers) might soon find yourselves with a few extra of your favorite variety threatening to go bad.

Why not save the seeds for next year?

Preserving tomato seeds isn’t rocket science, but it’s messier than you’d think. There are a few considerations when it comes to preparing and preserving your seeds planning for what to do with them.

What kind of tomato is that, really?

It’s recommended that you preserve seed only from tomatoes that haven’t been cross-pollinated with other tomatoes.

Hybrids produce pretty unexpected results, since the tomato can vary from generation to generation (grandchildren resembling the grandparents more than the parents sometimes).

Does the home-gardener really track and care which tomatoes have possibly been pollinated by other tomatoes? Probably not. But if you intend to distribute or share the seed, you never really know what the seed of hybrids will produce, so expect some variation.

Keep ‘em separate

It should go without saying that you should preserve and mark your seeds separately (i.e., green zebras with other green zebras and early girls with early girls) so you know what you have!

Ferment the Seeds

Take your very ripe tomatoes and cut them in half. Squeeze the pulp and seeds into a bucket or small plastic food container. Leave this outside in a warm spot for 3-5 days. The pulp will rise to the top and mold over (this process helps make the seeds disease-resistant), and the hardy seeds will sink to the bottom.

Add water and stir thoroughly; strain/pour off the pulp from the top, making sure not to lose any seeds from the bottom. Add water and strain several times until the seeds are clean.

Drain the seeds in a fine strainer (line with cheesecloth or a coffee filter if your seeds are extra-fine) and lay out to dry on a cookie sheet lined with heavy paper for 10-15 days until thoroughly dry.

Preserve the Seeds

Keep your seeds in a well-labeled, air-tight container and store in a cool, dry place. This is key to being able to use them longer with a higher success rate. When stored well, seeds keep great in the freezer!

The shelf life of well-preserved seeds are thought to last from 5-50 years, but each year, lose some viability. So you will get more bang for your seeds if you preserve them well and use them a year or two after drying them.

Share the Wealth

See Part II: Swapping Seeds to learn more about seed exchanges and how your extras can go a long way toward diversifying your garden and those of others.

One Response to “Preserving Seeds – Part 1”

  1. Jorge Says:


    I am interested in storing seed long term (more than 5 years) Could you point me in the right direction?


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