Saving tomato seeds from heirloom varieties is more than a hobby for some people. It’s a passion. In order to be successful, you must follow a few simple steps.
First, hand-pollinate the flowers you want to collect fruit from. Tomato flower pollinating wands are sold specifically for this job. They vibrate at the same frequency as the bees that pollinate them in the wild. Or, you can wrap a pipe cleaner around the post of a sonic toothbrush, like this:
Hold your pollinating wand (store bought or homemade) against a fully open tomato and push the power button in little pulses to shake the pollen loose:
Once your flower has been pollinated, mark the stem near the flower so you know which tomato to harvest seeds from when the fruit is ripe. I use a piece of pipe cleaner.
Fast forward a few weeks and you have a perfectly ripe tomato. How do you know it’s ripe? It’ll be soft, smell good, and will be the right color for that variety. Follow the steps below to save seeds:
- With a clean, sharp knife, cut each tomato open, wiping the knife between varieties and keeping your varieties separate:
- Squeeze the seeds into a cup with the variety and date labeled like this:
- Cover the seeds with ½ cup of water and let them sit at room temperature away from direct sunlight for two weeks. This step is very important. Not only does it rot the flesh away from the seed to prevent your seeds from going moldy while in storage, it also builds disease resistance in your future plants.
- Moldy seeds will look like this:
- Rinse your seeds thoroughly (one variety at a time) using a metal sifter and plenty of fresh, cool water. Gently rub the seeds against the metal to remove any residue from the seed:
- Once your seeds are free from contaminants, shake them onto a clean paper towel. Fold the paper towel around the seeds several times, making an envelope. Transfer the label from the cup onto the paper towel:
- Set your seed packets in a cool, dark area until the paper towel is completely dry
- Tuck your saved seeds in a plastic zip-top bag and seal shut
That’s it! Stored properly, these seeds will be viable for years. Happy gardening!