Home > Heirloom Tomato Varieties, Tomato Seeds, Tomato Varieties > SEEDS…SAVING A NEW SEASON


Saving-Tomato-SeedsWell, maybe not just “Heirloom”…..I guess the standard Early Girl, Big Boy, Beefsteak, and a whole host of other dandy tomato plants deserve some saving as well.
The real point in saving tomato seeds, or any seeds for that matter, is to save the seeds from the plant with the best characteristics. The best flavor and appearance. The best and highest yielding plants. You get the picture, the plants YOU determine are best for whatever reason you deem appropriate.

OK….let’s get to the meat of the matter..
Open-pollinated vs. Hybrid
First, make sure that the variety you’re saving is open-pollinated, not hybrid. All heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated. Open-pollinated varieties will come true from seeds, but hybrids are created by seed companies who carefully crossing two parent plants to yield seeds for the hybrid variety. So hybrid varieties will not breed true. That was a litttle technical so don’t worry too much, we’re just trying to save some seeds ….right?
Choosing Tomatoes to Save
Over many decades, people created heirloom varieties by carefully selecting and saving seeds from their best plants, season after season. You can define ‘best’ to be whatever characteristic you’re after: biggest or healthiest plant, tastiest, most interesting or colorful tomato. Whatever you want, just choose the best examples of what you’re saving.
For instance, if you have two plants and one is sickly, the other healthy, choose a tomato from the healthy one. Obviously the sickly one may be carrying some weakness in its genes, so you don’t want to propogate that. This is not a time for “waste not, want not.” You want the best. Similarly, choose tomatoes in their prime, not over-ripe or under-ripe, diseased, mis-shapened, etc. Since you’re just saving the seeds, you’ll get to eat most of the tomato anyhow, so this isn’t a real sacrifice. To maintain good genetic diversity, it’s best to save seeds from multiple tomatoes, and preferably from more than one plant of the same variety, if possible. I’m sure you can see where this leads, just use you common sense, you’ll do fine!
You don’t absolutely have to ferment the seeds, but it makes the seeds easier to separate from the gel, helps sort out bad seeds, reduces some seed-borne illnesses, and eliminates a germination inhibitor.  I HIGHLY recommend it and if you’re going to trade seeds with other people, it’s considered good etiquette to ferment your seeds.
Here’s how. Cut the tomato in half and scoop or squeeze out the seeds and gel into a small container labeled with the variety name. Set the rest of the tomato aside for eating. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Set the container aside, out of the sun, for 3 to 5 days. A moldy film will probably form on top. That’s okay. To separate the seeds: First carefully remove the film. Then add some more water and stir. Good seeds will sink, so carefully pour off the water and the floating bits of pulp. Repeat until all the pulp is gone and you have clean seeds. Drain them as well as you can (using a paper towel helps), then spread them in a single layer on a screen or a paper plate to dry. You can use paper towels, but the seeds tend to stick to them. Don’t use plastic or ceramic plates! The seeds need to have the water wicked away from them. If you’re saving multiple varieties, be sure to label the plates. Labeling is good….especially after running around with the daily charges of your life…..labels ROCK!
Once the seeds are thoroughly dry, place in an airtight container for storage. Tomato seeds remain viable for years, even stored at room temperature. For extra protection, you can store them in the refrigerator or freezer, but let them come to room temperature before opening the jar so you don’t introduce moisture from condensation. Small packets of silica gel will help absorb excess moisture also.

So there you have it, that wasn’t too bad was it? Believe me you’ll be one happy gardener when next season rolls around and you have the exact plants you want and it was YOU who saved them! As always, if there’s any kids in the house it’s a fun thing to get them involved with without killing their play time or in the case of older kids…..their social status. Hey….and if the kids are a little older you might plant a seed or two yourself….in their minds about potential science projects and such….you get the idea! ☺

See you next month.

CREDITS: I’d like to apologize to Laura Watt over at ETSY…..Her original posting contains her Photo that I posted in my article erroneously…. You can see her posting here : http://cubitsorganics.com/2012/08/how-to-save-heirloom-tomato-seeds/


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