How to Save Tomato Seeds from Your Garden

I love a flavorful, red, ripe tomato from the garden. In fact tomatoes are the reason I began gardening in the first place.

Have you ever heard the saying "I never met a tomato I didn't like... until I went to the grocery store"? It's a sad fact that most tomatoes you'll buy at the market, especially in the winter time, are mealy and tasteless. Garden tomatoes are far superior.

This year I've discovered un-red tomatoes. A few years ago I tried yellow pear tomatoes and loved them, but I'd always thought that purple tomatoes were downright ugly and kind of disgusting-looking, and how can you tell if green-when-ripe tomatoes are ripe? While I still haven't tried purple tomatoes, this year I grew snow white, cherry cola and sun sugar cherry tomatoes and Mr. Stripey green tomatoes as well as the red varieties. The Mr. Stripey plant hasn't fruited yet, but I'll try them again next year because they are a friend's absolute favorite.

Red husky, cherry cola and snow white cherry tomatoes

By the way, those snow white tomatoes aren't white, they are yellow. Just wanted to clear that up, because I was a bit disappointed in the color.

Due to an unfortunate chain of events including a very late freeze, I lost all the tomato plants I'd grown from seed this year as well as the transplants I'd bought and the cuttings I'd kept alive over the winter. It was too late to start more from seed so I had to buy whatever transplants I could find at the local stores, and the pickin's were mighty slim, let me tell you. So I bought more little transplants at a flea market while we were on vacation in May, and I discovered some new-to-me varieties that I want to grow again.

Cherry cola cherry tomatoes

I haven't seen seeds for sale for some of these varieties though, so I'm saving them from my own garden plants. Which is always a good idea anyway. Did you know that if you save seeds and replant them every year, after a few years those seeds have adapted to your own garden climate and soil? They are the perfect plants for your garden.

Saving seeds from hybrid plants is a game of chance though, you'll need to save them from heirloom varieties to get fruit that's true to the parent plants. Hybrids are crosses between two varieties, whether done on purpose or by accident (cross-pollinated by bees or other insects, for example). If you grow several varieties of tomatoes like I do, you're likely to get some seeds that are cross-pollinated. You can read more about preventing cross-pollination in this article from Garden Web.

You might want to save seed from the first ripe tomato in your garden, or from the largest, the most-colorful, or the best-tasting. Well, always save seed from the best-tasting tomato, because next year's best-tasting tomatoes come from the seeds of this year's best-tasting tomato.

Let the tomato ripen completely, then cut it into quarters and scoop out the tomato seeds and pulp with a spoon. (I've found that the serrated ends of grapefruit spoons are handy for so many things like this, such as removing the pulp and seeds from squash and melons we're going to eat.) It's a good idea to save seeds from a couple of tomatoes of the same variety instead of just one. Diversity is a good thing.

Put the seeds and pulp into a jar, using a separate jar for each variety of seed you're saving. Be sure to identify the seed variety in some way: a taped-on slip of paper, or by standing each jar on a paper towel with the variety name written on it for instance.

Add enough water to completely cover the seeds. Cover the jar with something that can breathe, such as a paper towel held on with a rubber band. I cut a piece of paper toweling to fit on top of my canning jars.

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Set the jars in a warm place and let the seeds ferment until there is moldy pulp on top of the water. This might take a week or so. When the mold happens, add some more water to the jar so you can pour the moldy scum off the top without pouring out the seeds with it. The seeds and remaining water should be poured into a fine wire mesh strainer to catch the seeds.

Sun sugar - tiny but tasty!

Spread the seeds on a paper towel with the variety name written on it, and let the seeds dry for several days. Then scrape them off the paper towel into an envelope or baggie, label them with the name and date, and store. I like to keep mine in the door of the refrigerator, even though hubby complains a bit that the entire top shelf is full of seeds instead of ketchup and other stuff.

Pretty easy, isn't it? I know it sounds like a lot of work but it really isn't; it takes time but it isn't time that you have to do something in, it's just "waiting time."

Did you know that it's possible to keep your tomato plants alive over the winter? I like to use both methods - saving seeds and "cloning" my plants.

If you've never saved tomato seeds from your garden tomatoes before, why not give it a try this year.

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Related Posts:
How to over-winter your tomato plants
Canning tomatoes, no matter what kind you're growing
How to make comfrey tea

How to save tomato seeds from your garden to plant next spring, using the method that mimics nature.

How to save tomato seeds from your garden to plant next spring, using the method that mimics nature.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. I love this idea and while I do grow an heirloom garden, I have lots to learn yet in the way of seed saving from my own vegetables. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I still have a lot to learn about seed-saving too, but I have a great teacher who brain I pick every chance I get. :-)

  2. I have saved tomato seeds before simply by drying them off - is there a reason behind adding them to water and waiting for mould? Does it make them more likely to germinate?

    1. Yes, you'll have a higher rate of germination by fermenting the seeds. This is how nature "saves" tomato seeds - the fruit rots on the vine, falls to the ground, the seeds dry out and sit all winter, then come to life in spring.

    2. Thank you - I thought that might be the case.

  3. I agree, Kathi, garden tomatoes are SO much more delicious than store bought! I did not that saved seeds would adapt to your garden as you described though. That's fascinating! I think it's so important to continue the tradition of home growing and seed saving and I'm so grateful you shared this post with the Hearth and Soul Link Party. Scheduled to pin, and I'm featuring this post at the party this week. Hope to 'see' you there! Have a lovely week!


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