This easy tutorial shows you how to save seeds from heirloom tomatoes so you can grow more of the same kind next year.
This is part of a series on 5 Best Tips for Growing Tomatoes.
Easy Seed Saving
Just one tomato yields many seeds, and seed saving is really easy. This walks you through the process in eight simple steps.
I grow both heirloom and hybrid tomatoes. For seed saving, you want to save the heirloom seeds. You can also try saving hybrid seeds but they may not grow true to the parent plant or bear fruit. Definitions vary but basically, heirloom tomatoes are self-pollinators that have bred true for 40 years or more. If you know the name of your tomato plant but don’t know if it’s heirloom or hybrid, just Google the name for an instant answer.
If your plant has struggled through the growing season, it’s actually fine to save seeds from tomatoes affected by blight or wilt as these problems will not affect the seeds, but the fruit you choose should be ripe and not over-ripe.
Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds
There are lots of good methods for saving tomato seeds. This old-fashioned method relies on fermentation, which occurs naturally during the process.
- Slice the tomato and scoop or squeeze out the seeds with their surrounding goop into a cup. That goop (gelatinous coat) actually protects the seeds from the acid of the tomato.
- Add enough water to cover plus one inch. The rest of the tomato is good to eat, of course.
- Tag or label the cup with the name of the tomato.
- Cover and wait 4-5 days.
It will ferment and get moldy and gross. Nature is genius: the fermenting process releases the seeds from their casings and kills off any baddies/diseases lurking in the tomato. Plus, it looks so delicious, dontyathink? I think Sylvester Stallone drank this in Rocky. Or was that raw eggs?
Ok, I kid. All you Sly groupies, just stay seated and finish the tutorial. There’s seeds to be saved!
Some sources say white mold is a good sign. Mine always seems to be green. But, whatever. My seeds grow very well indeed.
- When the fermenting has done its business, pour the gunk into a sieve at the kitchen sink.
- Rinse with water until just the seeds remain.
Seeds are amazing. This I know for sure. And they contain eternity. What’s not to love?
Organic Slow-Release Tomato Fertilizer
- Place the seeds on a plate to dry out for approximately seven days. My plates have numbers on them. One plate for each type of tomato. Keep track of the names!
I also save wildcard seeds. If I’m chopping tomatoes for a meal and using a bunch of different heirlooms, I just put all the seed glumps into one cup and save them that way. I know I like all of them so I won’t mind whichever kind sprouts next year when I plant them. And it’s like a seed surprise pack.
I cover the plates with old file folders so the fruit flies won’t get too excited while the seeds are drying.
Turn the seeds over each day so they can dry out completely. I reuse my numbered plates and cups over and over again. Of course.
When they’re really dry, the seeds will slide across the plate/bowl, instead of sticking to it.
Store in labelled envelopes or other containers in a cool, dry place. You can read more on best conditions for storing seeds here.
Sources vary saying that saved heirloom seeds will be viable anywhere from 4-10 years.
Also, there’s lots of online seed swappers if you want to collect more varieties and share what you have. Power to the people!
That’s all there is to it. Now you’ve got lots of seeds for years to come.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛