I was thrilled this year when two volunteer tomatoes came up that were very different than my usual choices and I liked them! One was a 1+ inch diameter tomato that darkened to a deep dark green with a rose tinge! Lovely, great slightly tart taste, and prolific! I believe it is an heirloom, a Black Russian Cherry! The other is a PINK Pear! And I do mean pink, NOT red! There’s no real way I will know for sure what they are, so, of course I’m saving seeds! Here’s the how to!
To intentionally save pure tomato seeds, when planting, separate varieties with short styles (most modern varieties) by at least 10 feet. Varieties with long styles (heirlooms and older varieties) need at least 100 feet to ensure purity. If solitary bees are prevalent, separate all varieties at least 100 feet and place another flowering crop between. Getting that 100′ in a community garden is unlikely, but give it a try!
For your Mother Fruits, select your finest fruits, free of cracks or bug holes, entry points for disease microorganisms.
Fermenting! Cut the tomato into halves at its equator, opening the vertical cavities that contain the seeds. Gently squeeze out from the cavities the jelly-like substance that contains the seeds. If done carefully, the tomato itself can still be eaten or saved for canning, sun-drying or dehydrating.
Place the jelly and seeds into a small jar or glass. (Add a little water if you are processing only one or two small tomatoes.) Loosely cover the container and place in a warm location, 60-75° F. no more than two days. Stir each day. Recent studies show tomato seed germination is best when seeds are soaked for only one to two days before they are rinsed and dried. Fermentation times longer than three days substantially lower the germination rate from 96% to only 74% on the 4th day! Word.
In warm weather, on the second day, a layer of fungus will likely begin to appear on top of the water. Stir the seeds so fermentation is equal for all the seeds. This fungus not only eats the gelatinous coat that surrounds each seed and prevents germination, it also produces antibiotics that help to control seed-borne diseases like bacterial spot, canker and speck.
At no more than two days fill the seed container with warm water. Let the seeds settle and begin pouring out the water along with pieces of tomato pulp and immature seeds floating on top. Note: Viable seeds are heavier and settle to the bottom of the jar. Repeat this process until water being poured out is almost clear and clean seeds line the bottom of the container. Pour these clean seeds into a strainer that has holes smaller than the seeds. Let the excess water drip out. Spread them in a single layer on a screen, coffee filter or piece of newspaper, or a paper plate to dry. No ceramic or plastic. You want the water to wick away. They will stick to paper towels. Break up clumps, turn a few times to allow the seeds to dry completely, usually a day or two, five days if you want to be sure. Label with their name and date. Store in a packet or plastic bag out of sunlight.
NOT fermenting! Simple – simply squeeze tomato seeds onto a paper towel, spread them out a bit, and allow the towel to dry for a couple of weeks. When dry, the seed-bearing towel can be folded up and tucked into a labeled envelope for storage through winter. Or you can place the little tykes in groups of 3 on the towel, cut up the towel, and voilà, they are ready to plant by 3s next spring! This works for year to year planting, since the seeds only last a year processed this way.
Nature’s Way! If you know where you will plant your tomatoes next season, toss a few over there, cover with a couple inches of soil and mulch. Put in a stake with their name on it so you don’t forget your plan! Next spring, stir that soil a bit. If you want things to happen a tad sooner, cover with a cloche to warm the soil and wait for your happiness!
May the Tomato Fairy give you many blessings – bird gifts, mice carrying off tomatoes from somewhere else leaving tomato remains behind – seeds that will grow next spring! The seeds that make it have a certain strength and affinity for your special soil! Each year as you save seed from your best plants, they will grow in strength and be so delicious to your personal taste!
If I may convince you, please save some extra seeds for our January Seed Swap!
Merci! Bon tomate appétit!
The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!