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Save Your Seeds: How To Save Tomato Seed

tomato-seed
Photo by John Barlow

If you grow them at home it’s easy to save your own seed for sowing the following season.

Tomatoes are generally self-pollinating – the flowers pollinate themselves before they open fully – so you don’t have to worry too much about keeping the variety pure. There is a small chance of cross-pollination by insects sneaking into the flowers early, so if you grow more than one variety it’s best to separate them with a tall crop, or plant them about ten metres apart.

There are a few simple steps for saving and storing tomato seeds for next season.

Choose the best early fruit from the strongest plants to save your seed from.

Make sure the fruit is ripe before you pick it. Tomatoes continue to ripen after they’re picked, so leave them in a bowl until they’re a bit more mature than you like to eat them.

Scrape the seed, along with the surrounding pulp, from your chosen tomatoes into a jar or bowl.

Leave the seed/pulp at room temperature for a few days until it starts to ferment. You will see the pulp start to break down. This step is important, as it mimics the natural process and removes the chemicals in the pulp that stop the seed from germinating. It also makes the pulp easier to wash off.

Put the seed and pulp in a sieve and wash the pulp off.

Spread the seed out to dry. Some people place the seed on kitchen paper to dry, and then roll up the paper to store the seed: this is fine for small quantities, but tedious if you’re saving lots. Spread the seeds on a tea towel or newspaper, and move them around occasionally so that they don’t stick together.

When the seeds are dry, place them in a paper bag or envelope for a few weeks to finish drying. Then store them in an airtight container, in a cool place away from light, for next season.

This method – of fermenting the pulp before removing seeds – also works with other seeds that are in a pulpy mass, such as cucumbers.

Bega Valley Seed Savers is keen to expand the varieties of tomato seed it makes available, and would be delighted to hear from anyone willing to share seed.

For more information visit www.seedsavers.scpa.org.au 

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