You’ve done your homework, and it sure paid off. You learned which tomato varieties to plant, helped them flourish, and finally harvested those beauties. Be proud of yourself! The garden is full of beautiful, delicious tomatoes, and you’ve undoubtedly discovered a few new favorites. By following this guide on how to save tomato seeds, you can ensure that those varieties will thrive in your garden forever.
Saving Seeds is a Bit Tricky
Although tomatoes are annual plants, meaning that they only produce for one growing season, you can actually save your tomato seeds to use for next year’s crop! This process can be a bit difficult, however. Each tomato seed is covered in a membrane that cancels the seed’s germination rate.
Below are 3 seed-saving methods currently in use by home gardeners. These Include freezing whole tomato slices, drying seeds, and fermentation.
Before You Start, Choose Your Favorite Tomato
For all of these methods to work properly, you’ll need to use a healthy tomato. After harvesting a few tomatoes from your garden, put aside one that you deem useful for seed collection. Try to choose one that is ripe, a nice shade of red with no bumps, scratches, cracks or bruises.
Only save seeds from the tomato varieties that you liked best, and that thrived in your garden. There’s no point saving seeds from vegetables and fruits that are just “meh”, right? Choose the ones you love so you can grow them again, and share them with friends and neighbors.
Method 1: Freezing Slices for Future Propagation
Step 1: Prepare the Tomato
Take your chosen tomato and clean off any impurities under cold, running water. This is the best way to clean the tomato skin, as the running water applies force to toxins such as dirt, pests, or even disease cells. These might harm the plant during the seed collecting and preservation process.
In comparison, soaking tomatoes in water doesn’t have the benefit of friction, and the tomato will be subjected to swimming around in dirty water full of insects and mould spores. After you’ve cleansed your tomato of impurities, dry the fruit completely.
Once the tomato is dry to the touch, take a sharp knife and cut it into slices that are about 1cm thick. If you cut the slices too thickly, it’ll be difficult for seeds to emerge. This is due to the germination-blocking membrane’s high viscosity. If you cut the slices too thinly, they won’t hold up in the freezer, or the seeds won’t be held in place.
Step 2: Freeze the Slices
Place the slices on a baking sheet that’s lined with parchment paper. Then pop that sheet into your freezer and leave it there for 24 hours. Next, remove the now-frozen slices, which should be firm to the touch.
Wrap each individual slice in either plastic wrap or parchment paper. Place the slices in a freezer-safe plastic zipper bag, and move the bag into your freezer. It’s a good idea to keep this bag in an area where nothing heavy will be placed on top of them. You don’t want a massive tub of ice cream to crush the bag and its contents.
Step 3: How to Use Them
You should now have tomato slices that will be ready for next season, or whenever you choose to start growing them. At that point, all you need to do is to pick a nice spot of fresh soil, and dig a hole no more than 5 cm deep. The optimal spacing is about 10 cm for each slice that you plant.
Place a frozen disc into the hold horizontally, cover lightly with soil, and press firmly. Then, you can water and care for your tomato plants as usual. Note that you can store these tomato slices in the freezer for about 1 year for guaranteed germination.
Method 2: Seed Drying
Step 1. Prepare the Tomato
Once you’ve chosen a healthy tomato, cut it in half so that all of the seeds and flesh are visible.
Step 2. Clean the Seeds
After you’ve opened the fruit, scoop out its insides into a clean bowl. For this part of the process, you can use a spoon, ice cream scooper, melon baller, or anything else that you think would do a good job. Scrape as close the last layer of flesh to the skin as possible for minimal flesh amount and maximum seed collection.
Take the bowl to the nearest sink. Then, grab a fine-holed sieve and place it under cold running water. Next, pour the tomato pulp into the sieve. Continue to hold the sieve under the water until all of the pulp has washed away, as this should leave a sieve full of clean seeds.
Step 3. Dry the Seeds
After your seeds have been cleaned, place them in a thin layer on a plate that’s been lined with paper towel. Next, move the plate full of seeds to a dry space near a window that receives a high amount of sunlight. Make sure that you check the plate regularly for signs of mould. Also, keep the seeds away from any animals who might want a tasty snack.
If signs of mould appear, quickly transfer the seeds to a new paper towel-lined plate and discard the mouldy towel. If you must do this, make sure to clean the plate well with soap and warm water before you use it again. The seeds should be dry within 48 hours. Then, you can transfer the seeds from the paper towel to a paper bag or envelope to maintain dryness.
Step 4. How to Plant Them
After you’ve completed the above steps, you can store your seeds for up to 2 years in the paper envelope or bag. Once the last frost is over, or whenever you feel like planting tomatoes indoors, take out your seeds and plant as usual.
One thing to remember, however, is that each tomato variety is different and each tomato plant has its own rules regarding the planting process. Make sure to record the information given to you when you first purchased your tomato plant so that you can follow up in future seasons.
Method 3: Fermentation
Step 1. Scoop Out the Seeds
Scoop the seeds out of your favorite tomato and into a clean bowl. Cutting the tomato into quarters first makes this process a lot easier.
Step 2. Use a Jar
Choose a clean glass jar. The jar that you pick should be big enough to hold your tomato pulp, plus an extra 2/3 of equal space between the pulp and the lid. You can use any glass jar—either new or used—as long as you’ve washed it thoroughly with soap and hot water.
Fill your jar 1/3 of the way with the scooped-out tomato pulp. After this, fill another third of the jar with water, and screw on the lid.
Step 3. The Fermentation Process
After you’ve screwed the lid on tightly, place the jar in a secure, warm location. For the next 2-7 days, location, check the jar at least once a day. The fermentation process should take place immediately. You’ll see a thick layer of tomato pulp rise to the top of the water, while the seeds will sink to the bottom.
Scrape off the top layer of slime once a day by scooping it off with a spoon and either composting it, or rinsing it down the drain. Once all the seeds have sunk to the bottom of the jar, pour the rest of the jar’s contents through a sieve held over your sink.
Step 4. Drying the Seeds
Once you’ve drained all the seeds through your sieve, lay them out on a paper towel-covered plate. Make sure that the seeds are spread out evenly in a single layer. Next, move your plate to a sunny location where they won’t be disturbed by people or animals. Check the regularly for any mould that might develop on or around them.
If mould appears, remove any affected seeds and transfer the rest onto another, clean prepared paper towel. Wash the plate thoroughly before placing the new towel onto it.
Once your seeds have been drying for a week, or after they’re dry to the touch, you can store them in a paper bag or envelope until you’re ready to use them. Although this method takes the longest amount of time, it’s the most foolproof method out there. In addition, seeds preserved via this technique have the highest germination rate.
There you have it: you now know how to save tomato seeds! No need to run out to the nursery or gardening shop when the next growing season arrives. The methods mentioned here all have their pros and cons, so you’ll have to choose the method that you feel works best for you.
One of the greatest things about saving tomato seeds to use again next season is that if you have a specific tomato plant variety that worked for you last year, you know you’ll have a similar bountiful harvest next year as well. As an added bonus, you won’t have to worry about whether or not your favorite variety will be in stock next season. Nor will you have to pay for new seeds!
We wish you luck in your tomato garden for many years to come!