Saving Seeds Yet?

Ok I’ve been obsessed with harvesting the garden and getting ready for our first cold snap tonight. I think I’m ready for it. But now the weather people say it will be 38°F tonite which is still plenty cold for tomatoes but hopefully it won’t get down to freezing tonight in the garden and then the nighttime temperatures will go up into the 40’s. Definitely cooling off but I’m hoping we will get another 3-4 weeks without freezing weather to extend the season. I’m already FRIED with all the harvesting I’ve been doing but I always have the winter to recoup. rest. recharge-and dream of the next season.

So are you saving any vegetable seeds yet? Do you remember this past spring when COVID 19 first hit? I don’t know about you, but I remember a vegetable seed shortage not only locally at our nurseries but also many national seed companies ran out of seeds too. Plus many veggie starts were sold out right away in our local nurseries. And I heard it might happen again next spring. So with this in mind, I’m saving some of my seeds of my favorite crops so I will have some vegetable seeds for next year to grow.

I will save tomato, winter squash, lettuce, beans (both green beans and dry beans), summer squash, sweet Italian peppers and many different flower seeds. How do you save seeds? There are many online sources on how-to save seeds for you to investigate and I will have a mini-series on saving different seeds starting with tomato seeds by next week, once I film the whole process.

Besides saving seeds to replenish our supply of seeds, you can also save seeds of any unusual varieties or abnormalities within a variety that you grow. Look around your garden. Have you found anything unusual that you like?

Pink Glass Gem corn

For instance, I found 2 ears of glass gem corn I grew that were different shades of pink out of many rows of multiple color glass gem corn 5 years ago that I continue to grow to stabilize it. Now there are no other colors other than different shades of pinks. It is now an F5 (fifth generation) so it’s probably pretty stabilized. You can read about it here.

Santoro lettuce

I also save a particular open-pollinated lettuce seed that for the last couple of years I couldn’t find online anymore. It is called Santoro, a wonderful butter lettuce that melts in your mouth and produces large heads. My Santoro lettuce seed supply still germinates at 100% but I want to keep the supply fresh since I can’t find it anymore. You can read about it here.

Moby dwarf cherry tomato with anthocyanin on the shoulders

I’m currently doing a trial on a Craig Lehoullier dwarf yellow cherry tomato plant called Moby, where I’ve discovered 2 years ago some tomatoes that had a slight purple blush called anthocyanin on the shoulders and they are sweeter on the Brix scale than the regular yellow variety. This in the second year of growing it out.

I went to Italy 2 years ago and while there got some dry beans from the market in Florence that are not available here. This one is called Rossa de Lucca and comes from the Tuscany area. They are hard to find here in the states and so I did cook some up and saved some to grow out and now I have a steady supply of them.

So you can save seeds to not be caught shorthanded for next year (like we were this year) or for saving new possible varieties. Try it, it’s fun!

How to collect heirloom tomato seeds

Tomato seeds fermenting in a jar. On the plate are some dried seeds.

I don’t collect hybrid tomato seeds as they may not grow back true.What that means is they may revert back to one parent or the other that they were crossed with. Heirloom tomatoes will grow back true.

The only heirloom tomato seeds I collect are from my giant tomatoes as I’m trying to get some seeds that do well in our high desert and give me some big, really big tomatoes. Last year I got 3 tomato seeds from a giant grower who grew a tomato over 7 lbs in Ohio. This year I got a pretty large tomato from one of those seeds. I kept the tomato which measured 19 inches in diameter and almost weighed 3 lbs and recently got the seeds. I will try some of these seeds next year as well as other big tomato seeds that I got from another grower this week.  Here’s how you can collect your favorite heirloom tomato seeds.

To collect tomato seeds, cut the tomato open, squeeze and scrape out all the seeds and put them in a little jar with some water. Then put the lid on. Try to not get too much pulp in with them. The seed/water mixture will start to ferment in a couple of days and it might bubble a little which is good. The fermentation will remove the slime on the seeds and the seeds will fall to the bottom of the mixture. When almost all the seeds are on the bottom, pour out the liquid, seeds and pulp through a fine sieve, removing the pulp. Keep rinsing until only the seeds are left. Spread them out on a paper towel to drain the excess water and then put them on another paper towel to finish drying. Before the seeds dry completely I move them around so the paper doesn’t stick to them. After they are thoroughly dry, put them in a ziplock baggie, label and store. You can keep any heirloom tomato seeds this way.

My only concern with collecting tomato seeds is if you plant cherry tomatoes too close to the heirloom tomato you want to keep, they may cross-pollinate so think about where they will be in your garden next spring and don’t plant them right next to each other. Tomatoes aren’t pollinated by bees but by the breeze or are self pollinating. Tomatoes originally came from South America and honeybees came from Europe or Africa so tomatoes aren’t native plants to the honeybee hence they aren’t interested which actually makes pollination easier to control.