We love talking about tomatoes and this week we’ll be talking about how to save your own tomato seeds. If you have an especially tasty variety or something that is passed on from a relative or family member, you may want to save some seeds to grow it out again for many years to come. It’s an easy process and one we’ll outline below.
First, you’ll ideally want to use an open-pollinated variety of tomato. Commercial hybrid varieties generally will not provide you with seeds that are true to their parent plant. In addition, if you grow multiple varieties of tomatoes in the same area (or if you have neighbours who grow tomatoes as well), there is a chance of cross pollination and again not getting seeds that will grow true to their parents.
If you just want to save some tomato seeds to grow out again or if you’ve taken some precautions to choose specific tomatoes to save seeds from, here’s how you can save your own seeds. We’ve adapted this guide from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Plant Gene Resources
1. First, you’ll want to choose a tomato (or multiple tomatoes) from a healthy plant and ideally one that has been given the time to ripen on the vine. If it is looking overripe or has fallen off the plant from being too ripe, those fruit would be excellent specimens to select. This allow the plant to put as much energy into seed development which will mean a more vigorous plant next year and a higher germination rate. Many home gardeners will wait towards the end of the season to select their tomato to save the seeds from as leaving too many ripe tomatoes on the vine for too long can actually reduce overall fruit production.
2. Once you have your tomato, cut it in half and squeeze out the seeds into a glass jar. Try to minimize the amount of pulp and skin as you’ll be skimming it off and removing it in a later step. Fill the jar half or three quarters full as you want to leave a little bit of space in case some white mold develops. This is normal and you’ll want to scrape this off if it happens. What’s happening is the translucent, gelatinous seed coat is fermenting and breaking down, allowing the seeds to be cleaned and ready for germination once you are finished. Leave the seeds on your counter for a few days for the coating to start to dissolve. There is no need to add any water to the glass unless the seed mixture is very dry.
Photo: Flickr Seedful Tomato by Brett Taylor
3. After a few days, skim off the pulp and any other scum that has floated to the surface and/or strain the seeds through a mesh strainer. Fill your jar with water and the prime tomato seeds should then sink to the bottom.
4. Pour off the water and dry the seeds on a piece of newspaper, plate, or other dry surface, out of direct sunlight. Gently separate the seeds so they don’t stick. When the seeds are dry, store then in a cool, dry, dark place, ideally an airtight container or in an envelope until you are ready to plant.