Saving Tomato Seeds

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

I thought I’d share what I’m doing to save some of the tomato seeds from our garden. We had a great cherry tomato plant this summer. I can’t remember what it was called, but I’m snacking on some now and they are delish! So I’d been thinking about saving the seeds to plant some next year, but I had no idea how. With other plants, we’ve been letting the fruit mature on the vine so that the seeds are full-grown before you harvest them, but that just seemed like a really bad idea for tomatoes!

Then we went to the Nowicki’s for a permaculture garden tour a couple weeks ago, and Vicki demonstrated how to save the tomato seeds. I also checked my copy of The New Seed Starters Handbook for more details. I really recommend that book–it’s been so helpful for reference that I wish I had more time to read it from start to finish, because there is so much good information in there. The author recommended the same method Vicki Nowicki demonstrated, and gave some more specifics as far as timing.
So here’s what you do (or what I did, anyway!):

I picked some tomatoes and I set aside three of the best tomatoes to use for seeds. You want to pick the ones that have the most desirable characteristics, so you have the best chance of getting great tomatoes next year. It’s also good to get seeds from more than one tomato, just to hedge your bets.

You’ll need the tomatoes, a jar with a lid or plastic wrap to cover it, some water, a knife and maybe a spoon.

So first you just seed the tomato–either scoop out the seeds with a spoon or your finger, or just give the tomato a squeeze into your palm–the seeds and the gel-like stuff around it will just come right out. Get the seeds and the gunk around them into the jar and add some water–you don’t need a lot and it doesn’t have to be precise. The water is just to swish the seeds around in and allow for the separation of the seeds and the gunk, and for some seeds to float and some to sink.

Put the lid on the jar and swish it around. If you don’t have a lid, cover it with plastic wrap and maybe poke a few holes in the wrap (my sources differed on whether or not this was important). I labeled the jar with the date and to remember what kind of tomato seeds I have going in it.

Saving Tomato Seeds

Tomato seeds in the jar

Keep the jar in your kitchen or somewhere you’ll see it every day. Try to keep it room temperature, nothing too warm or in direct sunlight. Swish the seeds around in the jar once a day for 2-5 days (no more than 5 for sure). I started mine on Oct. 13th and took them out of the jar on Oct. 17th, so the full 5 days. You might see some seeds float and others fall to the bottom of the jar. You also might start to see a film or scum on top of the water (yummy I know). I never did, but the book says you will…so maybe I did something wrong, who knows! Each day, you’re supposed to pour off the scum from the top and remove any of the seeds that are floating at the top. Any seeds that float are not viable so you just want to get rid of them, they won’t sprout. Then on the last day, dump the rest of the jar’s contents into a fine sieve to catch the remaining seeds, and rinse to wash off any additional pulpy stuff.

Put the rinsed seeds somewhere to dry. The book recommended putting them down on paper; I tried wax paper and it worked great. Once they are completely dry (give it 3-7 days), you can store them in a cool dark place until you’re ready to start your seedlings next year.

Cherry Tomato Seeds, Drying

The tomato seeds drying on wax paper

And all this to say–since I can’t remember the kind of cherry tomato we have, I don’t even know if the seeds from this plant are going to sprout! It might be a hybrid and then all bets are off. I’ll have to remember to do a post about whether or not the seeds sprout come spring.

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