How to Save Tomato Seeds

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The recent cold weather we’ve been having in Missoula has brought our long and lustrious tomato season to a close. However, it’s not too late to save the seeds of your favorite tomato to grow next year! The great thing about tomatoes is that each fruit comes with tons of seeds, and they’re actually pretty easy to save.  Even your favorite tomato from your favorite farmer can be saved and then grown in your own garden next year.

Right now at the Providence Hospital Garden, where Patrick and I spend our Thursdays, there is an abundance of the irresistibly sweet and snackable Sungold cherry tomatoes that I've been gorging on all season. I've decided to save some of these seeds to plant in my home garden next year. Sungolds are also a great tomato variety to grow in a container on your patio. 

Saving tomato seed is easy as 1-2-3...and 4.

1.       Scrape out the seeds from the juicy tomato and place in a small clear jar or cup. Each tomato seed is enclosed in a gelatinous sac, but don’t worry about removing that from the seed. It will come off naturally later in this seed-saving process.

Fun fact: Did you know that the gel contains chemicals that inhibit germination until the seeds have a chance to glue themselves into soil crevices. This brilliant plan works great in nature, but the gel residue can be a problem for stored seeds because it can provide a safe haven for seed- and soil-borne diseases.

 

2.       Fill the cup with an inch or so of water, so all seeds are submerged. Secure a paper towel over the lid of the jar with tape or a rubber band, so air can pass through but nothing else can fall in.

 

3.       Let ferment. (This process cleans the gel off of the seeds and mimics the natural fermentation of overripe tomatoes that fall on the ground and germinate next year.) I usually wait about a week or until a white scum forms on the surface of the water, but if it's warm out, the fermentation process can happen faster. Likewise, if it's cold in your house, it might take a little longer for the white scum to form. 

 

4.       Drain the fermented tomato water slurry and spread the seeds out on a paper towel or paper bag. Label your seeds so you can remember what you’ve kept, and place in a safe space to dry. Once completely dry (usually a couple days), place in a labeled envelope, store in a cool dry place, and start your seeds indoors next February.

 

For information on growing tomatoes in Montana, follow this link.