By: RaDonna Fox
Fall is the perfect time to save your heirloom tomato seeds, so you can grow more the following season. Here you will learn how to save the seeds from your heirloom tomatoes, and you will never have to buy another tomato seed again!
First of all, be certain the variety you want to save is non-hybrid. If you do happen to save the seeds of a hybrid variety you will end up with tomatoes that revert to one of the original “parent” plants of the hybrid cross. This is because hybrids are are created through purposefully crossing seed varieties. It has absolutely nothing to do with genetic engineering or GMO's, which has nothing what-so-ever to do with hybridization. All heirloom seed varieties are great for saving seeds from as they are all open-pollinated and come from non-hybrid seeds.
Now that you know what to save, choose the heirlooms you would like to keep. It is best to always choose to keep seeds from the plants that were the most frost, or heat, or drought tolerate for your specific area. Choose the plants that have the tastiest, biggest/smallest, most colorful, healthiest tomatoes of the bunch! This will ensure that the plants you grow the following season will improve for you annually. Saving seeds allows you to grow tomatoes that are absolutely the best suited for your area and preferences.
To ensure high quality genetics and diversity, be sure and save seeds from multiple tomatoes, and preferably from two or more of your best plants.
Fermentation is the best method of saving tomato seeds. It is not absolutely necessary to ferment, but fermentation does allow for a gel to form around the seeds and for much easier separation of individual seeds. It also helps prevent some seed-born illnesses and prevents a germination inhibitor from forming on the seeds. Basically, if you wish to save tomato seeds in the best manner possible, fermentation is way to go.
You will need one or more quart jars depending on how many seeds you have to save. Label your jars with the variety of seed you are going to be saving.
Cut your tomatoes in half and gently squeeze or scoop the seeds and gelatinous center into the quart jar. Save the remainder of the tomato for pasta or some other wonderful recipe.
Cover the seeds with ¼ to ½ of a cup of water per tomato. Then, cover the jar loosely with a lid so that air can easily escape, but bugs and mold spores, etc.....can not get it.
Set the seeds in a sunny location for 3 to 5 days. If mold does form, all is not lost, just place a stick into the middle of the mold and twirl it, the mold film will cling to it and can be easily removed and then thrown out.
Add water and stir or shake the mixture of fermented seeds. Allow the mix to settle and carefully drain off ½ of the water and then add more water, and repeat the process of rinsing and draining until all of the seed pulp has been washed away. If some seeds are poured off know that the good seeds are the ones that sink to the bottom.
Lastly, strain the seeds through a cheese cloth and then spread them out to dry. Place the seeds to dry on a paper plate, or a fine screen. Seeds stick to plastic and ceramic so they are not an optimal choice to dry your seeds. Be certain to label plates if you are saving multiple varieties. Allow them to dry for 72 hours or more. Then place them in personalized seed packets that are labeled with the variety and date packaged. Tomato seeds will last in the freezer for a minimum of four years.
Tomatoes generally keep their pollen to themselves, but sometimes bees will cross pollinate your heirloom varieties. It is best to avoid growing multiple varieties unless you can create significant distance between them. It is possible to grow multiple varieties if you are willing to put cheese cloth around the blossom clusters and pollinate them yourself with a soft paint brush.
The rewards of growing and saving your own tomatoes is a wonderfully rewarding process.