Saving Tomato Seeds

Here are some important tips for saving heirloom tomato seeds.

The Importance of Using Heirloom Seeds

I used to think all you had to do to save tomato seeds was to squeeze them onto a plate and let them dry. But after reading Seed to Seed, by Suzanne Ashworth, I realized there was a little more to it. Learn how to mimic nature and save your tomato seeds the right way with our short video.

The first thing to do is start with heirloom, or open pollinated tomatoes. Many modern tomatoes are hybrid tomatoes that have been selected for qualities that make them great for commercial production. The seeds of hybrid plants may not reproduce like the parent plants so saving seeds from them is unwise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture there are over 25,000 different kinds of tomatoes. That number may actually be closer to around 10,000 but at any rate, there are a lot of different tomatoes out there, so try to find out what kind of tomato you have.

Tomato seeds are covered with a gelatinous substance that keeps them from sprouting inside the tomato. You may have seen this happen inside other vegetables, like peppers or pumpkins. In nature, a tomato would fall to the ground and rot. That gelatinous substance would break down, and the seed would be ready to hibernate in the soil until conditions were right for it to sprout. That is the process we want to re-create when we save tomato seeds.

Getting Started

To begin, cut your tomatoes in half and squeeze the pulp and seeds into a small bowl. Cover the bowl and set it on the counter for 2-3 days. We want a good layer of mold to grow and cover the surface. After a layer of mold has developed on the entire surface, pour the mixture through a strainer and wash the seeds off. *Hint – this will smell TERRIBLE!*

Once your seeds are cleaned, spread them evenly on a plate to dry. I do not recommend spreading them on a paper towel as it will be nearly impossible to remove the paper towel fibers from the dried seeds. Label the plate with the tomato variety and set in a dry place (I like to put mine above the dryer) until thoroughly dry. If the seeds are not thoroughly dry before bagging and storing, they will mold. I like to store seeds in the freezer for the best longevity. The seeds I have saved in the past have lasted for many years and have had really high germination rates.

I hope this inspires you to give tomato seed saving a try! Check out our other gardening videos and blogs to learn more.