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How to Collect Tomato Seeds

By Sheri Lacker ; Updated September 21, 2017
Cross-section of tomato showing seed pockets
half full of red tomato seeds on a white plate image by ESGatell from Fotolia.com

Tomato seed collecting is a non-wasteful approach to sustenance, as many people allow tomato seeds to literally disappear down the drain. Saving seeds is both an economical and personal reward of built-in return on original seed investment costs. Seed-saver organizations have been especially prolific in the culling and saving of heirloom and non-hybrid varieties of tomatoes through the years, and with a few simple steps you may replicate their efforts at home.

Tomatoes ready to have seeds removed
tomato image by Sergey Goruppa from Fotolia.com

Scoop the gelatinous matter containing seeds from the tomatoes into a large bowl. The contents will be sitting in this bowl for a few days so it needs to be large enough and handy enough for you to move around, access and manipulate the contents easily.

Add enough water to adequately cover the seed matter and leave the bowl in a room temperature environment for two to three days. John Jett, a West Virginia University Extension horticulturist notes that the gelatinous liquid in which the seeds float is designed to prevent internal sprouting; it therefore has to be removed for the seed to germinate. When mold forms on the top of the water- seed mixture, this signals fermentation has occurred, which is the reaction process that removes the gelatin.

Small-hole screen strainers are ideal for seed separation.
colino image by Renato Francia from Fotolia.com

Remove the mold from the liquid's surface. Rinse, drain in a fine strainer and repeat until all seeds are free of the gelatinous coating. Spread the tomato seeds across a paper towel or screen and place in a room-temperature, non-windy area until completely dry.

Plain, sealable envelopes make excellent seed storage containers.
envelope image by Peter Baxter from Fotolia.com

Place the dry seeds into an envelope to store for future use. Label the envelope with the date of seed storage and type of tomato. Store the seeds in a cool dry place to allow them an optimal chance to remain viable for producing healthy, prolific tomato crops in your future vegetable gardens.


Things You Will Need

  • Fresh ripe tomatoes
  • Bowl
  • Fine screen strainer


  • Choose tomatoes from your garden or store bought varieties that you know are non-hybrid. Hybrid varieties rarely reproduce the exact tomato from which the seeds originate.
  • The fermentation process of culling seeds has an additional benefit, according to WVU's Horticulturist Jett, in that it, "mimics the natural rotting of the fruit and has the added bonus of killing seed borne tomato disease."


  • Use a very small-holed screen strainer during the straining and rinsing process to protect loss of seeds.

About the Author


Sheri Lacker has more than 30 years' experience as a writer, photographer and multimedia artist. Her work has been used by Warner Brothers, Barbour/Langley and Casey Kasem Presents, among others. Her awards include the Theatre Excellence Scholarship and Guest-Artist-in-Res. Lacker studied journalism, Web design and historical research at the University of Memphis.