Most vegetable seeds can simply be collected, dried, and saved for next year. But with tomato seeds, there's an additional step that's needed. They must be fermented as well.
Tomato seeds are enclosed in a gel coating. That coating contains growth inhibitors that keep the seeds from sprouting while they are inside the tomato. If the tomatoes were left In the garden, the casing would break down naturally as the tomatoes fell to the ground and decayed. But today I'm going to show you a really easy technique, where you can manually cause that fermentation yourself, without letting the tomato rot.
Just follow the step-by-step instructions below, and you'll be set for next years garden with your very own tomato seeds.
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How To Save Tomato Seeds for Next Years Garden
Step 1: Choose Your Tomatoes
Save Seeds from Heirloom Tomatoes. Make sure you use a heirloom type tomato and not a hybrid. Hybrid tomatoes are created when two different varieties of tomatoes are cross pollinated. So there's no guarantee what kind of tomato you'll end up with, when you plant them the following year. An heirloom tomato though is "pure", so you know exactly what you'll get when you plant it. No surprises.
Make sure the tomatoes you choose are the healthiest ones from the plant also, with no cracks or insect damage. That way you'll have a better chance of growing hardy, disease resistant tomatoes next year.
Step 2: Remove Seeds
- Rinse the tomatoes off well.
- Slice the tomato in half.
- With your finger, or by gently squeezing, remove the seeds. Place them in a mason jar, along with an equal amount of filtered water. Spoon out any pulp that floats to the top.
- Cover the jar with a paper towel or coffee filter, and screw just the ring portion of the lid on. Air circulation helps the fermentation process.
- Label the jar with what type of tomato it is. Don’t trust your memory!
- Set the jar in a warm, shaded area, such as the top of the refrigerator.
Step #3: Ferment Seeds
Let the jar sit for seven days, swirling the contents of the jar around once a day, to help loosen the coating on the seeds. As the mixture ferments, it will turn darker and emit an odor. This is normal. Don't leave the seeds in the jar for more than seven days, or they could begin to sprout.
Step #4: Rinse Seeds
- Remove any mold that may of formed with a spoon.
- Add enough water to fill the jar 3/4 full. Stir well with a spoon, then wait about 10 seconds. Good seeds will sink to the bottom of the container, and bad seeds will float to the top. Pour off the liquid and bad seeds, being careful not to pour any of the good seeds out.
- Repeat the rinsing process until the water is clear, and all remaining seeds have settled to the bottom of the jar.
- Pour seeds into a thin-gauged mesh sieve, and rince under running water, stirring and gently pressing the seeds around with your fingers. This will remove any remaining coating or debris from the seeds.
Step #5: Dry Seeds
- Spread seeds in a single layer on a piece of parchment paper, or waxed paper. The seeds will stick to most other surfaces, such as a paper towel or paper plate.
- Carefully pat seeds with a paper towel, to help remove any excess water the seeds may be sitting in.
- Set seeds in a warm area to dry, away from direct sunlight. The top of a refrigerator is a good place.
- Gently stir the seeds once a day to prevent clumping and allow even drying.
- Seeds should be completely dry in 1 - 2 weeks.
Step #6: Store Seeds
Store dried seeds in either paper envelopes or zip-lock plastic bags.
Make sure seeds are 100% dry before storing them. Any moisture will allow mildew and rot to ruin the whole batch.
Label seeds with variety and date, and store in a cool, dry place.
Have you had success with one of my gardening tips?
I'd love to hear about it! Tell me what you did in the comments below, or take a picture and use the hashtag #myhomesteadgarden on Instagram or Facebook. I may feature it on social media!