Posted on 08 September 2008 by

Saving Tomato Seeds

By Kira Hamman

Believe it or not, it’s already time to think about next year – if you’re a seed-saver, that is.

Saving tomato seeds is not difficult, but it is more complicated than saving seeds from most other garden plants and does require some planning.

Just remember that saving seeds from hybrid varieties is risky — although they will probably produce fruit-bearing plants, those plants are unlikely to be much like their parents. Heirloom varieties, on the other hand, will produce plants just like the ones from which they came.

First of all, plan to save seeds from the very best fruits on your healthiest plants, because they are likely to be genetically superior and will pass this on to the plants that they produce. When the tomato you’ve selected for your seeds is perfectly ripe, follow these instructions:

  1. Cut the tomato in half at its equator and gently scoop the seed-filled pulp into a clean canning jar. If you’re saving seeds from more than one variety, be sure to label the jar. Save the rest of the tomato to eat!
  2. Add about half a cup of water to the pulp, mix well, and cover with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. Put the jar in a warm place to ferment, a process which removes the gooey pulp and gets the seed ready to be dried.
  3. Check the jar daily and swish the seeds to mix things up. After a couple of days, it will start to smell fermented (think of a winery) and look moldy and bubbly. Gross! But perfect. Don’t wait more than about four days or the seeds will start to germinate.
  4. Take the cover off the jar and skim the mold off the top. Add more water, swish well, and drain in a sieve. Continue rinsing until the seeds are free of the pulpy mess.
  5. Spread the clean seeds on a plate or dish to dry in a well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight. Stir them every day to make sure they’re not clumping together. It can take up to a week for them to dry completely.
  6. Once the seeds are dry, label them and store in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant them in just a few months!

I have had reasonable success with seeds I saved directly, skipping the whole fermentation process, so if this seems overwhelming you could try that. I have also had success with the truly lazy approach: let a few fruits fall where they may, rot into the ground, and produce next year’s plants as volunteers. Although that’s not the most reliable method, it sure is easy!

2 Responses to “Saving Tomato Seeds”

  1. Norman Eoff Says:

    Here is a much easier method of saving tomato seeds which has worked well for me for many years. Try it!

    Simply slice a tomato and flick the seeds onto a sheet of newspaper, then use the point of a knife to separate the seeds so they are an inch or two apart. The gooey pulp around each seed will disappear in a few days, leaving a reddish streak on the paper. Write the name of the variety and the date on the corner of the newspaper. There is no need to remove the seeds from the newspsper until planting time, either. Just leave it in a dry place. When you are ready to plant you will find the seeds are slightly stuck to the newspaper, but you can remove them with your fingernail.

  2. Seminte Says:

    Fermentation process removes the gooey pulp around seeds as well as many bacteria. Using the fermentation method is a better option.

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