How To Save Tomato Seeds

CommentSeptember 13th, 2009 12:37

With great Joy, this blog post is initiating a series of “How To” writings, designed to educate readers in the nuts and bolts aspects of natural communal living. Appropriately, we’re starting with food that comes from the garden.

Chris Burns and Llyn Peabody authored this article. They are presently living and serving in Central Oregon. Chris lived in our commune for 10 years, where he spearheaded the creation and operation of numerous gardens, that supplied an abundance of food to us and others. Presently, Chris and Llyn are actively creating a new Community Garden project in Alpine, Oregon. Here’s a link to their Alpine Community Garden blogpost.

Saving Tomato Seeds
By Chris Burns and Llyn Peabody

One of the missions of the Alpine Community garden is to educate people about the importance of seed-saving and to offer techniques to demystify this process. Today’s blog covers the practical steps necessary for saving one of the home-gardener’s favorite fruits: the tomato!

In order to save seeds that will “grow true” and produce fruit similar to the one you saved seeds from, you must start with an “heirloom” or “open-pollinated” (OP) variety. Hybrid seeds are artificially created by seed companies to produce plants with unique qualities (early ripening, bug resistance etc). The problem is that they don’t “breed true”. If you save seed from hybrids, next year’s plants may or may not be what you want. If you wish to save seeds, choose seeds or starts that say “open pollinated”, OP, heirloom or non-hybrid.

OK, so lets say you have grown some beautiful heirloom tomatoes and you’re ready to save seeds. If you have more than one plant to pick from, choose the plant that is healthiest, most robust, earliest to ripen and with the best-tasting fruit. Then, pick one or two fruits that are the best examples of these same qualities.. If there are other people who harvest from your garden, put a twist-tie, or in some other way mark the fruit so no one picks it prematurely. Let the fruit come to fullest maturity possible. It’s OK even if it starts to rot a little.

Select Heirloom or Open Pollinated Tomatoes

Here are two heirloom tomato varieties we saved for seed this year. We saved them as beautiful examples of color, juiciness and size. That’s a Black Krim in the lower-left and a Striped German in the upper-right.

In saving seed, you wish to mimic nature’s process. Have you ever noticed what happens to the tomatoes left in the garden after the first frost? They turn to a slimy mush, with the fruit eventually dissolving away from the seed. In the following year, robust little volunteers emerge from where the tomato rotted. The way we mimic this process: Cut open the chosen tomato and put it in the blender with about the same amount of water as tomato pulp. Whiz it in the blender for about a minute, so all the flesh separates from the seeds. Don’t about the seeds. They have a protective gel that keeps the blades from harming them. Pour them into a wide-mouth glass jar. Be sure to swirl the blender as you pour the last liquid out so no seeds are left in the bottom. If you’re processing more than one tomato variety in a row, rinse the blender well so you don’t mix seed varieties. Label the jar so you remember the variety of seeds you’re saving.

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