How to Save Tomato Seeds

Some of you may still have the last of your tomatoes inside your house ripening. If you would like to save the seeds or if you don’t have any seeds but would like to learn how to save them for next year then read on. It’s a simple procedure where we must remove the gel from around the seeds before drying them.

But before that, the first thing to consider is if the tomato is a hybrid or an open pollinated (OP) or an heirloom tomato. Don’t save hybrid tomato seeds as they won’t grow out true meaning they will not grow out to be the same tomato. They revert to one parent or the other and are unstable so you won’t know what you’ll get. If you have open pollinated (OP) or heirloom tomatoes you can save the seeds as both will grow out into the same tomato. An exception to this might be if you plant cherry tomatoes close to the tomatoes whose seed you want to save. Cherry tomatoes could cross-pollinate with other tomatoes but most heirloom tomatoes do not cross with each other. Just grow your cherry tomatoes away from  your other ones.

Put tomato seeds in a small jar of water (viewed from the top)

Put tomato seeds in a small jar of water (viewed from the top)

First you want to save a tomato that is really ripe and soft. To save the seeds from tomatoes we must remove the gel from around the seeds. Cut the tomatoes open and squeeze the tomato with the gel and seeds into a jar and add about 2-3 inches of water. Cover the jar.

white mold grows on top of the water

white mold grows on top of the water

In a few days you will notice that there is a white mold growing on top of the water and most of the seeds will have sunk to the bottom of the jar. Don’t freak out, this white stuff is fermentation working on your seeds.

drain the tomatoes and stuff off

drain the tomatoes

After about 4 days, strain the tomato seeds in a fine sieve or strainer and wash the yuck and tomato stuff off of the seeds. If you wait too long the seeds will start to germinate which will ruin them.

Put your seeds on wax or parchment paper. Write down the variety.

Put your seeds on wax or parchment paper. Write down the variety.

The seeds can now be put on wax paper to dry. If you use paper towels, the seeds may stick to the paper causing trouble removing them. Be sure to label them so you remember which variety they are. After they are thoroughly dry, store them in a plastic bag or jar for next year. It’s fun to save seeds and see what happens next year.

Time to Collect Seeds

Cosmos, scarlet runner beans, rattlesnake beans, pumpkin, sunflower, zinnias and tomato seeds drying out to be saved-check out my tomatoes in the upper right corner-still have a few and its Nov 7th!

I should have put this post before the previous one. Now that our summer garden is done, we should start collecting any seeds we want before we tear out the garden and add amendments in the fall. I have left many flowers and beans to dry on the vine so I can collect their seeds.This has saved me TONS of money and is a fun thing to do.

After I collect them, I put them in open containers (cereal bowls or cookie sheets)- not plastic bags until they are thoroughly dry or they will mold and go bad. After they are dry, you can then put them in ziplock baggies. Be sure you date and label the bags so you know in future years what is what. The rule of thumb is seeds will stay usually viable for 2-3 years, sometimes more but the germination rate goes down as they get older-so use your older seeds first next year. Having said that, my only giant squash seed I grew this year came from a 07  seed and germinated and grew beautifully. I thought what the heck, I’ll try it anyways and it set a state record!

-I haven’t bought zinnias, cosmos, nasturtiums, sunflowers, marigolds, scarlet runner beans and rattlesnake beans in several years since I’ve saved their seeds.

-Of course I do keep my giant seeds of all varieties-giant pumpkin, squash, and marrow

-I will also keep all the gourd seeds but must let them dry out before we cut them open to get the seeds-otherwise the gourds will rot.

-I don’t save the seeds from my cucumbers as I grow many varieties and they are pollinated by bees so there is a good chance they have crossed.

–I don’t keep some hybrid seeds as they may not grow back true. That means they may revert back to one parent or the other.

-I only keep seeds from a few heirloom tomato plants as I grow cherry tomatoes and they easily cross with other tomatoes that are close and I don’t want to mix them up with my favorite tomatoes.

Saving Seeds-still time to collect them

giant marrow opened up exposing seeds

I’ve been collecting some of the seeds that I want to replant for next year-rattlesnake beans, giant marrow, Japonica corn, giant pumpkin, scarlet runner beans, sunflower seeds, tomato seed from my 2.11oz tomato, cosmos, and zinnas. Ones I won’t take are cucumbers, most tomatoes, zucchini, winter squash, and peppers as I grew several of the same varieties and they could of crossed and I might loose the original strain.

giant marrow seeds drying

When saving big seeds like squashes or pumpkins, be sure to thoroughly DRY the seeds before putting them in a zip-loc baggie or jar. Any hint of moisture will ruin them. I just put the cleaned, wet seeds on a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet in a dry sunny place until dry. That way they will release from the wax paper after they are dry. I always like collecting seeds every year. It’s fun when you plant them the following year. It’s also fun when you don’t have to buy a packet of seeds for $2.49 with 20 seeds in them when you can collect the same seed and get 100’s more.  I have a friend (Fran) who walks and collects the wild flower seeds and broadcasts them on her property and the her natural garden this year looked awesome. (Did I tell you that Fran?!) Awesome!