By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
As the previous blog covered seed saving and seed tape there still exists a time-tested concept that every gardener knows.
You start out with good quality plants you end up with good quality produce.
This is a simple concept that is sometimes forgotten but is easily solved through proper choice of seeds to save.
Mother Nature has developed a beautiful system, which only chooses the perfect seeds. This process in a sense is natural selection or in this case human selection. We pick the most beautiful fruit that is prefect in every way for our salads, sandwiches, and sauces. This process can even be observed by the non-gardener by just watching people in the produce section sniff, squeeze, knock, and roll the produce.
We the hunters and gathers are looking for that perfect fruit to take back home where the home fires burn. But the successful seed saver needs to collect these delectable fruits of our labor with the exact precision used if we were going to eat it but instead save it.
Survival of the fittest has somewhat taken a backseat in the garden when you think about how we mother our own “Gardens of Eden.” We water, fertilize, weed, stake, and groom our way to vegetable perfection. But sometimes through this process we still get a weak link in the garden. Being able to recognize this default is a skill that any seed saver will need to develop.
The skills below will help any seed saver become a Master Seed Saver.
– Do not use fruit (seeds) from diseased plants.
– Know your plants hybrids are not good choices for seed savers. Heirlooms are great. There never is a question about what you will get next year.
– The better looking the fruit the better the seeds.
Once these skills are understood lets walk through drying tomato seeds in 2 different ways.
The first step requires walking through your garden and looking at the fruits of your labor. In my case my tomatoes are looking great. Some are ready to pick, some are almost ready, some are green, and some are just a twinkle in a pollinator’s eye. The tomatoes that are ripe look beautiful each in their own way but for my seed saving I need one that is perfect one that I would love to see in my garden again next year.
Looking through the tomato cages and fencing I find that perfect tomato or as the Peanuts would say “The Great Tomato.” As much as I would love to just bite into it in the garden I take Mother Nature’s masterpiece into the house. With great joy I cut the tomato long ways and scoop out the seeds. At this point I would put them on a labeled paper plate and dry as described in the previous blog but another approach does exist that is fermenting them.
This second way of saving tomato seed utilizes a fermenting process to dispose of the gel that holds the seeds in the tomato. Actually tomato seed dispersion was supposed to happen by eating the tomato and allowing the digestive system to dissolve the gel. This then allowed the seeds to go through our system and be distributed in our waste. If that is hard to believe look around where sludge from sewer treatment plants is stored. You will find beautiful tomato plants everywhere.
To artificially dissolve this gel simply place tomato pulp in a glass jar and cover with water. Place a cheesecloth cover over mouth of lid and secure with rubber band. Set glass jar in a location where it will not be disturbed. Let sit for 2-3 days or until a white mold covers the surface. Once this mold has appeared scoop off of surface and dispose of. Seeds that have risen into the mold would have been seeds that would not germinate so leave in this layer. Then rinse seeds and place on paper plate to dry. Do not forget to label.
Once the seeds have dried either store in a container located in a cool, dry place or make seed tape. But always remember to label.
Tomatoes are one of those unique plants that need special treatment when harvesting the seeds. So this year when you are tempted to eat that perfect tomato think about this. To give is to receive. If you give Mother Nature the best you have she will reward you with the most delicious fruits of your labor.