How to Save Tomato Seeds

It seems it may have been too windy for frost last night, and I’m crossing my fingers that it didn’t quite get all the way down to 2, because the wind blew a lot of the blankets off my plants in the night. They look okay, so hoping all is well and that the nightly lows stay above 5 for the next couple weeks.

I know a lot of my friends, like me, have really late tomatoes this year, but by now everyone has been able to eat at least a few ripe ones, so it’s probably time to start saving!

If you Google “how to save tomato seeds” you will find a lot of different methods and some very strong opinions. I’m sure they all work just fine. I’m going to tell you how I do it, which has always worked for me, and the seeds have remained viable for several years.

First though, make sure you are only saving seeds from open pollinated/heirloom tomato varieties. If you are saving seeds from hybrid plants (if you don’t know if what you planted is a hybrid, but you still have the plant tag from the greenhouse or the seed package, a quick Google of the cultivar name should let you know), you will likely not get the same plant next year. If you have no idea what variety you have but the plant came from a greenhouse, there’s about a 75% chance it’s a hybrid so I would not chance the disappointment.

My method for saving seeds may seem a bit blasphemous to the folks who ferment entire tomatoes, but I promise it works! I’ve always had great germination results from my saved seeds. It is simple and not smelly or messy like other methods.

All you need to do is put the seeds (and any gel that’s stuck to them) in a cup of water and let them sit for about 5 days. You can swish them around once a day or so. Once you can tell that the gel sacs around the seeds have separated from the seeds (this may occur earlier than 5 days), dump the water, rinse the seeds, and dry them on a paper plate for at least 72 hours. Then store them in the freezer until next year!

Don’t leave them in in the water longer than about a week or the seeds may start to germinate. If the sac has still not come off after this time, you should be able to easily separate it with your fingers at this point.

Some mold may start to grow on the surface of the water, but this is normal and nothing to worry about. Just make sure to wash it off the seeds before you dry them!

I recommend saving double the amount of seeds that you think you’ll need – they take up next to no space, and if stored properly will remain viable for decades. If you grew an heirloom variety that you liked, make sure to hang onto a few extra seeds and don’t plant them all in one go in case a germination disaster hits and you end up losing all your seeds! I learned this lesson the hard way in 2020.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: