Saving Tomato Seed
Successfully saving tomato seed. How to save tomato seeds from your homegrown tomatoes. Harvesting, drying and keeping tomato seeds. Heirloom and open pollinated tomato plants.
Homegrown tomatoes are so delicious that you will certainly want to save your own tomato seed at some point. Seed saving is a great way to preserve or even improve a rare strain of heirloom tomato.
Although you can save seed from any tomato, not all types of tomatoes will come true from seed. Plants grown from the seeds of modern, hybrid tomatoes will display different characteristics than the plant that the seed was saved from.
This does not mean that the resulting plants won't produce good fruit, just that you won't know how well they will perform or produce ahead of time.
If you don't like garden surprises, stick with open pollinated tomato varieties when saving tomato seeds. The old heritage or heirloom tomatoes are all open pollinated varieties.
How to Save Tomato Seeds
Always save tomato seeds from the best fruit produced by your best heirloom tomato plants. Never save seed from plants that performed poorly that season or from fruit that cracked more than usual for that variety.
You want to preserve the best characteristics of the strain you are growing. By only saving seed from the best fruit of the best plants year after year, you will eventually create an improved strain of the variety you are preserving.
How to Seed a Tomato:
Choose a tomato that is fully ripe. Wash it and lay it on its side. Cut it in half across its middle (like the one in the print at the top of this page). If you've done it right, the blossom and stem ends will be intact.
Now, scoop the seeds out into any clean, disposable container with your freshly washed hands or a spoon. Harvesting tomato seeds in this fashion preserves the fruit so you can still use it in tonight's dinner.
Add a couple of spoonfuls of water to the seeds.
Cover the container with plastic wrap. Poke a hole in the plastic wrap so that air can get in and out. Now, set the container on top of your fridge for 3 days.
The heat from the refrigerator will aid the fermentation process.
Tomato seeds differ from most other garden seeds in that they need to ferment before you can save them. Fermentation removes the gel that surrounds each tomato seed and kills tomato diseases that the seeds may be harboring.
Stir the seeds daily. Scum will form on top of them. This is normal. After the third day, spoon the scum off into the kitchen sink.
Pour the seeds and remaining liquid through a fine strainer. Rinse the seeds well. Get them as clean as you can. Drain as much of the water off as you can.
Now that the tomato plant seed is clean, you need to dry it.
How to Dry Tomato Seeds
Drying tomato seeds is the easiest part of saving tomato seed. Just spread the seeds evenly across a piece of wax paper and leave them in a dry, airy location for a few days.
Stir them up and spread them out again each day to make sure all the surfaces are exposed to air. Try to do this during dry weather as the seeds will dry more quickly. When the seeds stop sticking together when you stir them, they are dry. They should be ready to store in a week.
Keeping Tomato Seeds
I feel it is easiest and best to store your heirloom tomato seeds in paper envelopes just in case you didn't get the seeds completely dry. Also, you can write the tomato variety name and the date you saved the seed on a paper envelope.
If you are saving tomato seeds in a glass jar or plastic container, add a packet of desiccant (I save these from my vitamins) to absorb any excess moisture. Tuck a label in or write the variety and year on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the lid.
Growing Tomatoes from Seed
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