It’s very easy to save your own tomato seeds from one year to the next, cutting your seed bill and, in time, creating plants perfectly suited to your growing conditions.
Most tomatoes hold 100 or more seeds, so you only need a few fruits for seed saving. Seeds from F1 hybrid varieties won’t come true to type, so only save those from traditional, open-pollinated tomatoes, sometimes called heirloom or heritage varieties.
Collecting Tomato Seeds
Collect your seeds from fully ripe fruits. Cut the tomato open then scoop out the fleshy pulp containing the seeds into a glass jar. Smaller tomatoes can just be burst and squeezed out. Top up with a little water and label the jar with the variety.
Removing the Gel
The gel surrounding the seeds inhibits germination and must be removed. Leave for two to five days to begin fermenting. This will break down the seed coat while killing off many of the harmful bacteria and fungi lurking on the seeds.
Cleaning Tomato Seeds
Check and gently swirl the jar every day. The seeds are ready for cleaning when the pulp floats to the top. A surface layer of scum may also develop, while most of the seeds will have sunk to the bottom. Carefully skim off the pulp then tip the liquid and seeds into a strainer. Wash the seeds under running water, using the back of a wooden spoon to carefully remove any remaining material stuck to the seeds.
Drying Tomato Seeds
Spread the seeds onto paper towel to remove most of the water, then transfer them to a non-stick surface such as a dinner plate. Dry the seeds in a warm place out of direct sunlight. It will take two to three weeks for the seeds to completely dry out.
Storing Tomato Seeds
Gently scrape the seeds into labeled paper envelopes. Store them in a dry place at a cool, steady temperature. You could store envelopes in a tin or other sealed container, together with silica gel crystals to keep the air dry. Seeds can store for up to five years.
Saving your own tomato seeds really doesn’t take much effort and there’s something deeply satisfying about the whole process. What other vegetable seeds do you save? Pop a few lines in the comments section below and tell us.