Monday, October 03, 2011

Saving Tomato Seeds For Next Year's Garden - Fermenting Is Key!

These furry little seeds will be next year's tomato plants!

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My Favorite Tomato
Have you grown a favorite tomato this year or just found one in the farmer's market? Do you want to eat it again next year?
I bought and planted 6 heirloom tomato plants this year and my friend, Ray, gave me 6 more. Each of them was marked with their names on a little stick. My garden is now filled with huge tomato plants coming to the end of their productive season and unfortunately, all the little sticks have rotted and I can't remember the names of any of the plants!
Well, this wouldn't be a problem except there is one tomato that I MUST plant again next year because it is simply the best tomato I've ever eaten! It's big and dark red with a green top. It's flavor is delicate and not too acidic. So I decided to save its seeds.

The tastiest tomato in my garden!

It's More than Drying the Seeds
I'm embarrassed to say that I've never saved tomato seeds. In fact, I've always planted tomato starts instead of seeds because I'm lazy and love instant gratification! And, the nurseries always have such a cool selection of heirloom tomatoes. Enough excuses, this year I'm going to plant these seeds.
I thought you just dried them but after speaking to my resident expert gardener (my daughter-in-law, Karina) and researching some websites, I found that you have to ferment the little guys. 
Here's the process in detail. It takes a few days, it gets a little gross but it's very easy.

Step #1 - Pick the Tomato
First of all, you can only do this with heirloom tomatoes so don't pick a hybrid. Heirlooms are "open pollinated" or pollinated by nature, not by crossing plants.
Pick the best looking tomato on the vine when it's perfectly ripe. Don't worry - after taking out the seeds, you'll be able to eat it.

Step #2 - Cut the Tomato, Get the Seeds
Cut the tomato across the "equator" of the fruit. Scoop out the seeds and place in a small glass jar. Label the jar with the name of the tomato. In my case, I just labeled it, "big red tomato". Next year I'll probably be wondering what that means.

Cut tomato across center

Scoop out seeds into a small glass jar

Step #3 - Just Add Water
Add about 1/4 cup of water to the seeds. Cover the jar with a paper towel or plastic wrap and punch a few holes into the top so there is enough air for the seeds to ferment. 
Put in a warm place and let it sit for 2 or 3 days.

Add a little water, cover, punch holes in top and set aside for a few days

Step # 4 - Get Funky!
In a few days, a funky mold will grow on top of the seeds. This means the gel coating around the seeds has broken down. Remove the mold (I just pulled it off with a fork) and rinse the seeds in a fine mesh strainer.

Mold will grow on top of water
The mold comes off easily with a fork

Step # 5 - Rinse and Dry Seeds
Pour the seeds into a find mesh strainer and wash thoroughly until they are clean.
Place them on a waxy paper plate and dry completely. Move them around occasionally so they don't stick. Even if they do, you can gently scrape the seeds off the plate. Label the paper plate with the name of the seeds. When they are completely dry, place in a little paper envelope or a small plastic baggy. Label with the name of seeds and the date. If you did a good job, the seeds will be cute and fuzzy!

Rinse seeds under cool water until clean

Place on waxy paper plate until completely dry.

Step # 6 - Remember to Plant them
This, perhaps, will be the hardest step for me. In the middle of winter, the last thing on my mind is starting seeds. Then one day, I'll look up, it will be warm and I'll say, "time to plant" and run out to the nursery and buy starts. So this year, I'm going to make a big effort to use all the wonderful seeds I'll be saving and that Karina has sent me from her garden. 


The Veggie Queen said...

I saved seeds last year but didn't have time to do the starts so ended up buying plants. My favorite tomato this year (which is sadly done) is the Kosovo tomato. A big red, oxheart type tomato. I must have gotten 25 pounds off my 1 plant. These tomatoes are dense with few seeds and an amazing flavor. I am making sauce with them right now.

Your tomato looks like it might be a Cherokee black since it has that dark color and the green.

Thanks for the post.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

I'll have to check out the Kosovo tomato next year. Thanks for the tip!

Bulk Vegetable Seeds said...

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