This fact gives saving tomato seeds a fun twist, as you can try growing the different varieties that you might have come across. Now whenever that perfect tomato comes along with the perfect texture and perfect flavor, you can try saving the seeds and growing the fruits in your own garden. Just place the seeds on some napkins and let them dry out. Then store them in a cool, dry place and get ready for a lot of surprise during the summer!
Unfortunately, not all varieties of tomato seeds can be saved. Actually, you can save them if you want to, but the results will not be what you expect. Hybrid tomato varieties cannot be reproduced perfectly through their seeds. That’s because commercial hybrid tomatoes are meticulously cross-bred from different grandparent and parent varieties, and their seeds cannot embody the ancestral traits all at once. Fruit-bearing plants can definitely be grown from hybrid tomato seeds. But when those plants bear fruits, the results can be quite erratic.
Last summer, I tried to regrowing my Sungolds from the seeds I saved the year before. I was delighted that the resulting plants grew tall and formidable and bore clusters of solid looking fruit. Unfortunately when it came time for the fruits to ripen, the fruits came in all colors of the hues red, orange and yellow. They also varied in sizes and taste, and not one tasted even remotely close to the Sungold fruit that had spawned all this pandemonium.
With all that said, don’t get discouraged about saving tomato seeds. If a tomato tastes so good such that you deem its seeds are worthy of saving, then chances are that it’s probably an heirloom variety. Heirloom tomatoes are known for their unique flavors, and generally rank better than their hybrid counterparts in terms of taste, texture, and originality. With heirlooms, the seeds should duplicate the hallmarks of their varieties flawlessly.
And of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing a little experimenting yourself. Who knows, one day you just might hit the jackpot and discover and give your name to a strain of tomato variety that has previously been unkown. It has happened before, and it gives that extra bit of sweetness to playing around with saving tomato seeds.
The “proper” to save tomato seeds is a time-consuming process known as the Fermentation Process. It could be a little laborious and smelly. But it will provide you with a nice batch of premium, healthy seeds that can be stored for a long time or distributed. Note that the process could get a little smelly along the way… actually it smells a lot like dissolved yeast, which is not that bad. Here’s how you do it:
- Cut the tomato fruit in half and scoop out the seeds along with the surrounding gelatin material into a sterilized container. Add a spoonful of water to it.
- Seal the container with a piece of plastic foil and a rubber band, but poke a little hole on the surface with a toothpick for circulation.
- Place the container in a warm location, like in a cupboard or in an unheated oven (providing it will not be used for a few days). This will help the seeds ferment. You might ask why do we want the tomato seeds to ferment? After all, it’s not like we’re brewing tomato beer… Well, the fermentation process helps break down the gooey liquid surrounding the seeds. It also kills any seed-borne bacteria that could reside on the seeds and damage the seedlings once they emerge.
- Try to stir the yucky liquid at least once per day for mixture. Get a nose clip if you have to, and no you don’t have to look inside… When it seems that a good portion of the seeds have sunk to the bottom (usually takes 2-3 days), take off the plastic seal, stir, and carefully pour out the top part of the mixture, which contains empty seed cases and tomato tissues.
- Add water to the remaining mixture, stir to wash, remove any floating dead seeds, and pour the whole thing through a sieve. Repeat this process a few times, and you’re left with an elite batch of home-saved seeds.
- To dry the seeds, pour them on to a coffee filter and let them dry in a dry place for up to a week.
- Once the seeds are completely dried, put them in a container for storage. Be sure to label the variety as well as the date it was saved to avoid confusion in the future. To cap the process, place the container in a cool, dry place.
And that’s it, the procedure for saving tomato seeds for years to come. The ability to save heirloom seeds is yet another economical advantage to growing heirloom tomatoes.