Saving tomato seeds is an economical way to prepare for next year's garden. It also ensures that you can grow the same varieties you enjoyed this year, provided you are saving heirloom seeds. There are a few simple but important steps to follow in recovering seeds from this year's tomato crops that will garner the greatest success rate with the seeds you harvest.
Tomato seeds may be harvested for several reasons. Some people recover tomato seeds to avoid having to purchase new seed to save money. Others do it because they want to ensure they will be able to enjoy the same variety of tomatoes from future plantings. Still others do it do preserve heirloom seeds that remind them of varieties they enjoyed when they were younger to ensure a particular species remains available. Some do it for a combination of these reasons.
Hybrid vs. Heirloom
Hybrids are plants that are genetically controlled by breeding two or more species together to achieve a desired result. When the seeds from such a tomato plant are saved, the offspring may revert to one of the original parent plants or it may emerge with any combination of attributes from the parent plants, not all of them good. Heirlooms are a pure strain and will always produce offspring plants that are as close to identical to the parent plants as is possible in nature.
When recovering seeds from tomatoes, the grower has control of the process. When multiple varieties are grown, seeds can be saved from the preferred varieties guaranteeing the grower of a continuing supply of his favorite types of tomatoes. With proper storage, it is possible to save seeds from one crop for four to five years without spending any additional money for seed.
Seeds are removed along with the encasing gel from the tomato and placed in a jar of water. The jar is allowed to ferment for several days before pouring off the waste water and pulp. The seeds are rinsed several times and then spread on paper towels to dry for several hours. Clean, dried seeds can be stored in paper envelopes or glass jars for four to five years.
Only gather seeds from healthy and fully ripened tomatoes. Green, underdeveloped or damaged tomatoes will provide inferior or immature seeds and the future crops grown from them will be less than satisfactory. Avoid ripened tomatoes that show signs of disease as many diseases can infect the seeds and remain dormant in the seed until planted, putting your future crops at risk.