Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Saving tomato seeds

The cherry tomatoes in my new garden plot - sprawling and unkempt as they are from the last guy - taste fabulous. I really haven't liked raw tomatoes, but these are like candy! Since I don't know what specific variety they are, and they are prolific, I am designating them the subject of my trial attempt at seed saving.
(Apparently seed saving only works with heirlooms, since hybrid seeds might produce a tomato with different qualities. These cherries might be hybrids, unfortunately, but at the least it's good practice for when my black krims are ready!)

I've read up a bit on the method to save tomato seeds, and it looks like a simple process. The point is to remove the germination-inhibiting goo from around the seeds; this is usually done by fermentation:
1) scoop seeds and gel (goo) into a small container
2)add a bit of water, either same amount as goo, or a few tbsp
3)cover loosely so some air can get in/out
4)let it ferment for a few days in a warm location (not too long, though, or seeds will start to germinate). Good seeds should sink (per Patrick)
5)scoop off scum
(5.5 some say keep rinsing out scum/bits)
6)sieve seeds out
7) dry the seeds on paper plate or coffee filter (per Patrick)

There's some differences between sets of directions, but overall the general process is the same.
Here's some links to good directions:

Here's my goo. I used about 10 cherry tomatoes. I ate what was left of most of them :)
I poked a bunch of holes in the saran wrap, and put the container on top of the fridge.

We'll see!

Update 9/26: an coherent, opaque film has formed on the surface. I added a bit more water since the goo seemed really thick, like a lot of the water had evaporated (we have 15% humidity here)

Update 10/1: Was it supposed to grow mold? Grey and black fuzz quickly covered the film. But, when I tried to take off the filmy layer, it and the mold came off in one piece so I guess it was okay. The pic below shows a bit of the mold and the seeds after I drained all the liquid.

I spread the seeds to dry on a coffee filter. Hard to unclump them!


  1. This isn't terribly important, but the one suggestion I would add is you don't really need a sieve. If you use a fermentation container similar to the one you have, after you scoop off the scum, you can just hold it under running water.

    The good seeds will sink, and the bad ones will float. After you let some water run into it, let it sit for a moment, then you can just pour off the dirty water and bad seeds.

    Also, for drying the seeds, a coffee filter works well.

  2. thanks for the advice! I think this first try was successful, so now I'm going to try to save some heirloom seeds for next year!

  3. Yep, the mold was fine. It probably smelled unreal as well, and that's fine too. All part of the fermentation process...

    The clumped together seeds are pretty rugged, and I can usually just separate them by rubbing them with my fingers.