Tomatoes are coming on, so you need to save seed from your favorites to grow next year!
Well, you have those wonderful heirloom tomatoes that you have harvested ripe, right off the vine. I do hope you grew enough that you are able to can or freeze some for later use. Oh home grown canned tomatoes are so much better than store bought. I may have to give you instruction on how to can them.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. How can you keep growing those yummy tomatoes without having to purchase plants or seeds again next year? Or maybe even share some of them with a friend, neighbor or family member.
Saving seed from a tomato is very easy. Just make sure the tomato you are trying to save seed from is NOT a hybrid. It does not have to be an heirloom, but it cannot be a hybrid if you want it to grow true to what you had in your garden.
As you may already know, tomato seeds have a protective gel around them to keep them from sprouting. So this needs to be removed in order to get them to germinate later on.
First take the tomato and slice it in half. Squeeze all of the juice and seeds into a small container.
I use Styrofoam ice cream cups that you can pick up at your local cash and carry or one of the large wholesale supply warehouses. They come with lids and you can label the outside to remember what type of seeds they are.
Next you need to double the contents, that you just squeezed into the container, with water. So if you squeezed an ounce, you would put in about an ounce of water. It is not an exact science, but approximately double. I’ve tried without water and ewww!! It’s still not pleasant, but it’s less disgusting with the water in it.
Stir the contents and either cover with a paper towel and a rubber band or use one of the cup covers that allows it to breath. Just note that if you leave it open, the water will evaporate and it will attract fruit flies.
Store the cup or container, in a warm area for about 3 days. The back of your counter is a perfect place. This will allow the contents to ferment. The fermentation process actually breaks down the gel casing and treats the seeds, giving them anti-bodies to protect against certain bacteria. I’ve heard of other methods that give instant results, however I am leery of trying them as they are not fermented, and I really do not want to take chances with my treasured tomato seeds.
After the 3 days, you’ll find a container with stinky muck in the bottom. There are two ways to do this, but I prefer the outcome when I use a fine mesh strainer. Pour the contents into the strainer and run under cool water. With your finger, gently rub the seeds against the strainer to remove all the tomato debris from the seeds. Continue until you have nothing left but clean seeds. From underneath, use a paper towel to blot as much of the water off the seeds as possible. The other method is to continue to run cool water over the seeds and pour out the top water, until the water is clear of tomato debris. As you continue, the tomato pulp, debris and immature seeds will wash out and the viable seeds will sink to the bottom. Turn the strainer upside down on a plastic, ceramic or Styrofoam plate. I don’t use paper plates due to the fact that the seeds will stick to them as they dry. Tap the bottom of the strainer or container (depending on what method you used) so that all the seeds come out on the plate. Set aside to dry for a few days and viola, you have just saved your own tomato seeds. Store seeds in a dry, cool place.
You will find that these seeds, if harvested from vine ripe tomatoes and stored properly, will be more fresh and more viable than those you purchase from the store.