There are a number of reasons why someone might want to save their tomato seeds. The first is simple economics. Saving seeds from this year’s crop to plant again next year means I won’t have to purchase tomato seeds again!
But when we save our tomato seeds, we’re saving more than just money.
Some of the best, most flavorful tomatoes that we can grow are known as heirlooms. An heirloom is simply a variety that has been saved and passed down from one generation to the next for at least fifty years.
Every time we save and share our tomato seeds, we’re doing our part to preserve those varieties
Tomatoes don’t necessarily need to be heirlooms for us to save their seeds. The key to success is to grow and save seeds from open-pollinated varieties. Seeds from an open-pollinated variety produce offspring that are identical to the parent plant.
What You Need to Save Tomato Seeds
There’s very little equipment required to save tomato seeds. The first thing you’ll need, of course, is ripe tomatoes. When a tomato is ripe, the seeds are ready to harvest and the fruit will signal its ripeness by changing colors, from green to red. Or orange, yellow, striped or even purple depending on the variety of tomato that you are growing!
You will also need a cutting board, knife and a container to ferment your tomato seeds in. A canning jar will do the trick, but you can always reuse any jar or container from the kitchen.
How to Extract & Ferment Seeds
When you save tomato seeds, you first need to ferment in order to remove the jelly-like coating that surrounds thes. This coating contains growth inhibitor chemicals, and removing it from our seeds will significantly increase germination rates next season.
Cut your tomato open and squeeze the seeds and juice out of the fruit and into your container. You can also use a small spoon or scoop for this job of you prefer. Add a little bit of water to the jar, cover, then set the container on a window sill for a few days to ferment.
Be sure to label the jar with the name of the variety!
Once the seeds are properly fermented, you’ll notice a white mold beginning to form at the top of the water. This is the signal that your tomato seeds are ready! At this stage, just add a little bit more water to the jar and swirl the liquid around to mix it up well.
Getting Your Seeds
The contents of the jar will separate, with the mold, growth inhibitors, immature seeds and other undesirables floating to the top, and nothing but healthy, viable tomato seed sinking to the bottom. Pour off the top of the jar, and then pour the seeds into a fine mesh strainer.
Rinse seeds off and place them out to dry on a paper plate. I recommend labeling the paper plate with the name of the tomato to avoid any confusion. This is particularly important if you are processing seeds from multiple varieties at the same time.
Allow your seeds to dry for around seven to 10 days, until they are completely dry, and then package them up to save until next season. You can use jars, coin envelopes or even small ziplock bags to store your seeds. Juts be sure that they are labeled and kept in a cool, dark location.
When you harvest and save your tomato seeds, you can easily preserve this year’s harvest to enjoy for years to come!