Here’s how to save the seed to do so.
Tomato seed is great to save – you can have your tomato to eat and save the seed too.
Choose the tomato
Take some of your best tomatoes and put them aside until absolutely ripe.
Now you get to eat them at their best.
Cut in half across the middle. Notice how amazing the seed-producing part is – even beautiful.
I use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds surrounded by their jelly and leave the pulp/flesh.
Eat the tomato flesh now the seeds are removed. [Raw/cooked/turned into sauce or paste etc.]
Separate seeds from pulp
Tips seeds and jelly into a jar. I like using a clear jar so I can see when the seeds are ready for the next stage.
Add water until the jar is half full.
Place somewhere warm where you will see and remember them. We use the kitchen window sill.
Leave for a few days to ferment [and go moldy]. As the mass ferments, gas is produced which bubbles the mass (mess?) up to the surface of the liquid.
Let it ferment longer until the seeds drop to the bottom.
Tip off the water and the fermented mess which is on the surface. Take care to leave the seeds still in the jar.
I use a sieve so the water and mess tips through it and I catch any seeds. Then I tip the mess out of the sieve into the compost.
Now add more water to the jar with the seeds, give it a shake, and tip the seeds and water into the clean sieve.
Rinse seeds and pulp under the tap until all debris has gone – leaving clean seeds in the sieve.
Drying the seeds
Now the seeds need to be dried to store for next season.
I tip the whole lot from the sieve onto a piece of paper towel on a plate. I label the paper towel with the type of seed and the date.
In this picture, the jar on the left has just had water added to seed-jelly-pulp mix. The plate on the right has tomato seeds drying. The plate in the middle is a ‘ring-in’ as it is drying pumpkin seeds.
I put the plate on the bench to let the seed dry for a few days.
Then I put paper towel and seed all together into a recycled envelope which I leave open so the seed can continue to dry for some weeks.
The seeds stick to the paper towel and eventually I plant pieces of paper towel with seeds still attached. You can separate them if you wish.
Label the envelope the same as the paper towel.
After some weeks place the envelope with paper towel and seeds into a safe long-term seed storage container.
What is a safe long term seed storage option?
To keep seeds for more than a few months they need to stay dry, cool and protected from all the creatures that like to eat them – rats or mice, weevils or ants, even possums.
Check every so often that the seed is still drying, has not gone moldy and is not being eaten.
A metal tin in a cool spare bedroom can work well. [As in the pik above]
My grandparents used glass jars with metal lids. Their seed was kept in the garden shed so really needed strong protection from rodents. We use strong plastic lids too.
Our seeds are stored inside the house and I use a cardboard box and envelopes. This works well for us.
If you store seed in a garage make sure it’s well protected from heat, humidity and rodents.
True-breeding seeds – how to get next year’s crop the same as this year’s
For seed to produce next year’s crop the same as the fruit this year – there are a few important points.
The fruit must be able to breed true – hybrids can’t. Hybrids are a cross between two different varieties and the fruit contain genes of both parents so you get a mixture of offspring if you plant those seeds.
Heirloom or heritage varieties are planted because they breed true.
The plant that grows the fruit you’re going to get seed from is also important. It must be isolated from insects bringing pollen from other plants to fertilize the flower or you don’t know where the pollen has come from so you don’t know the genetic material of the seeds produced.
Tomatoes are pretty good at self-pollinating so
- Separate varieties growing in the garden by few meters. The distance apart can be far less than plants which a wind pollinated such as corn.
- Or cover them with the insect mesh so they are protected from any foreign pollen.
- Or only plant one variety this season. [Which I don’t do as different varieties perform well in different years and I can’t predict it in advance! So, I grow many varieties]
- Or plant one variety early to set seed and another later to flower after the first is already growing fruit – and remove any later flowers from this plant so it can’t cross-pollinate.
Enjoy the fun of saving seed and the anticipation for next year’s crops!