Using tips from Living Ready author Stacy Harris and inspired by the information in her excellent new book, Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living, I learned how to save tomato seeds using a pretty straightforward and easy method. It already has me thinking about starting tomatoes from seed indoors next spring.
Heirloom tomato seeds harvested using the following method should last a few years if preserved in a cool, dry, dark container.
How to Save Tomato Seeds: What You'll Need
Grab a few exceptional, homegrown, heirloom tomatoes, a knife, some water and a small plastic container. Even if you plan on harvesting a lot of seed, don't use one large container. Use several small ones. That way if one becomes contaminated or spills, you're not out too much.
How to Save Tomato Seeds: Squeeze ‘Em Out
Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze the seeds into the container. Don't worry if some of the pulp comes out, too.
How to Save Tomato Seeds: Add Water
After all the seeds are squeezed out, add an equal amount of water to the container.
How to Save Tomato Seeds: Wait Three Days
Let the container sit in a warm area outside for about three days. This will ferment the contents of the container. (That's a fancy way of saying the seeds will start to rot.)
How to Save Tomato Seeds: Mold is a Good Thing
Mold will start to form on the surface of the seed mix. That's a good sign you're on the right track.
How to Save Tomato Seeds: Add More Water
After three days of fermenting, it's time to separate the good seeds from the bad. Fill up the container with water and let the mixture settle. The good seeds will sink. The bad ones will float.
How to Save Tomato Seeds: Removing Bad Seeds
Dump out the seeds that float. You'll be left at with good seeds at the bottom.
How to Save Tomato Seeds: Panning for Gold
Keep working out the seeds that float until you're left with the best of the best at the bottom. It's a little like panning for gold.
How to Save Tomato Seeds: Let ‘Em Dry
Strain out the good seeds from the water. Let them dry on a plate for a few days. The seeds are finished drying once they don't stick to the plate. They should be bone dry. One way to test is to shake the plate. If the seeds move around easily, they're done.
How to Save Tomato Seeds: Preserve Those Seeds
Store the dried seeds in a cool, dry, dark place inside a tightly sealed container. They'll stay fresh for a few years. Start seedlings indoors in the spring, then do the process all over again in the fall. Heirloom gardening is as fun as it is delicious and sustainable.