Saving Tomato Seeds

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Paquebot2, Aug 10, 2004.

  1. Paquebot2

    Paquebot2 Guest

    With more interest in non-hybrid tomato varieties, and tomatoes now beginning to ripen, many members are hoping to continue growing some of their favorites and want to know how to do it. Since I sent out a lot of seeds, I suppose that I also should give instructions for preserving those varieties.

    The absolute simplest way is to just scoop out some seeds and spread them on a 3x5 card. The gel will stick like glue. When fully dry, place the card in an envelope and store in a cool dry place. When needed in the spring, simply scrape off what is needed and plant them. That method has been around forever and still used by a lot of oldtimers.

    However, the old way also can carry diseases over from year to year since some may be present on the seed coat. Fermentation kills off more disease pathogens and that is the only method recommended since the gardener then knows that a disease is not being carried over or started in another garden.

    Fermentation is not complicated but just sounds that way since it is a big word but it is not. It simply means that the seeds are allowed to ferment in their own natural protective juices and it destroys all pathogens.

    Equipment needed: 1 small bowl and a spoon. That's all! Simply squeeze or scoop the seeds into the bowl. All the gel will come with them as well as a lot of juice. If it's a real juicy variety, that's all you need. If it's a meaty variety with little juice, add a half inch of water or tomato juice. Then set the bowl aside but not where it's going to be under your nose all the time as there is an odor involved and it will attract every fruit fly within miles! (I do mine outside in the garden shed.)

    After one day, a thick scum will form on top. Stir it to break it up since a lot of seeds will be trapped in it. Then you will notice that many seeds suddenly fall to the bottom. Second day, the scum will be black or gray since it is a mold. Stir again. Third day, the scum will be more solid and can be carefully scooped off. There will be no seeds in it unless they are "floater" sterile ones. All of the good seeds will be at the bottom and completely clean.

    Rinse the seeds by adding and changing the water until any odd remaining bits have been washed out and only clean seeds remain. Spread the seeds thin on a cloth shop towel or something similar for initial drying to allow excess water to drain off or be absorbed. (A paper towel would be OK but the seeds tend to stick to it when the material shrinks around the seeds.) After a day, transfer them to a paper plate or paper towel for a full week of further drying. Break up any clumps or clusters of seed then. After that week, they are safe to go into glass or plastic vials, bottles, or whatever for permanent storage.

    Cautions: If you have cats, and have 4 or 5 different varieties drying at the same time, keep the cats away! After all the above work, one doesn't want to create a "heirloom mix"!

    If you forget about the fermenting seeds for a week or so, you will find that the seeds become almost coal black. That's not a problem since it is only the seed coat that is affected.

    Also, if you have more than one variety drying at one time, write the variety name on each paper plate or towel. Never trust your memory as almost every tomato seed looks identical!

    Martin
     
  2. mowarren

    mowarren Active Member

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    thank you i've been looking for easy directions to do this.now i can print it off and have seeds from now on.esp more of your roma's
    thx , mark
     

  3. Linda Camello

    Linda Camello Well-Known Member

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    Thank you very very much Martin!! I'm kind of a newbie here and I'm so glad you posted this!! I planted the WI 55's and I'm surely gonna save those seeds for next year...and probably some of the small cherry tomatoes too!! Keep up the great work Martin!! And...keep on sharing with us!!! We love to learn from good people like you!!
     
  4. Paquebot2

    Paquebot2 Guest

    Don't be afraid to try either method described. The Paquebot Roma line began when I realized that the tomatoes, which we had purchased and eaten, were something special. Four seeds were in a bit of leftover salad. Gel was removed in my mouth and the clean seeds dried overnight. Three of them were plants a week later!

    Tomato seeds are very forgiving. If they are stored in a cool dry place, 10 years is not old and good germination can be expected. Many commercial seed suppliers will grow enough for 5 years demand before planting for fresh stock. This year, I had nearly 100% germination from Tigerella which I purchased in Germany in 1997. Bradley was about 50% and that seed was bought in England in 1990!

    Martin
     
  5. katydidagain

    katydidagain Adventuress--Definition 2 Supporter

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    Martin,
    I'm a diehard paper plate seed saver but I followed your advice. I never got a mold going after over a week. It's me; I'm so fermentation challenged I can't make wine or natural sourdough either! I drained the stinky water in coffee filters; I'll either "staple and label them" or scrape them into homemade seed envelopes. Well, I tried...

    katy
     
  6. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Katy, you must be one of those rare gardeners who are instant death to any plant and every seed commits suicide if you even look at it! If you give up now, I'll never help you again!!!

    Non-fermentation could have been due to too much water or temperatures too low. I'm drying seeds right now from Mother Russia and Black Cherry and they were still in the fruit until Sunday. Temps have been at near record lows and I thought about letting them go another day. Mother Russia had a fairly thick red scum that I simply rinsed off. Black Cherry had a gray scum which was about ready to form a solid mold colony. After about 3 or 4 changes of water, only clean seeds remained from both varieties.

    I should probably have mentioned that room temperature or higher is best since the ideal temperature for yeast and mold is around 80. (Bear that in mind also when you start wine or sourdough yeasts.) I didn't have the normal results today but the concoctions resulted in clean seeds. If I can do it, anyone can do it!

    Martin
     
  7. katydidagain

    katydidagain Adventuress--Definition 2 Supporter

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    Martin, I'll admit I probably got carried away with the water; I only had a few seeds and no doubt drowned them. No visible scum but they sure stunk! May not be the cleanest seeds I've ever saved but, hey, I can see them and they will grow--darnit!

    Give up? Nope. When my San Marzanos produce, I'll keep trying again until I master this technique; it took me over a year to figure out how to reliably propagate ficus. To be safe, I'll let a few 'maters drop on the ground and let Mother Nature do the work; it's amazing where volunteers end up growing.

    katy *who has given up on the wine and sourdough thing*
     
  8. CMATE

    CMATE Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Martin!!
    :worship: :worship: :worship:
    Btw, your roma's & 55's are beginning to color-up (yeah!!) & I ate my first (ever) Brandywine today from my garden & it was terrific. Can't wait to eat yours!!! :D
     
  9. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    CMate, I am humbled by your thanks! We shall endeavor to ignore the previous respondent to this thread although that may be difficult! I'm happy to hear that the Paquebot Roma is doing well for you. It's a tasty salad or spaghetti sauce tomato, not a 3-bite snack. Reports seem to be about the same. Lots of green fruit awaiting ripening. My own are now closing on at least 3 weeks behind normal so I'm relying on other reporters to tell me if I released a winner or a dud. Only those in the deep South are giving a thumbs up for the Paquebot Roma thus far. It was the culmination of 5 years of breeding and once released, onward to the next project.

    Martin
     
  10. Miz Mary

    Miz Mary Well-Known Member Supporter

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    my romas are still green......but planning on dehydrating them.....

    Can you put fermenting seeds in the sun on a 80-90 degree day ? Just curious.
     
  11. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Mary, 80 degrees is perfect for fermenting tomato seeds. Although I do not personally enjoy the hot weather anymore, it would be nice to see a few warm days right now. I'm trying to get most of the seed saving out of the way before the big canning blitz. With the unusually cool weather, it's taking about 2 days longer for everything to properly ferment. After 4 or 5 days, I rinse and dry them regardless.

    No ripe Roma here either. It's maddening when not even the early varieties are ripe yet. Mother Russia is the only variety which is thumbing her nose at Mother Nature and ripening somewhat normally. Even my normally early Wisconsin 55 has only green fruit.

    Martin
     
  12. katydidagain

    katydidagain Adventuress--Definition 2 Supporter

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    Martin,
    Just so you know...I'm trying again with some currant and grape specimens. I rinsed most of the trash out but severely limited the water this time. We'll see...

    BTW, 3 out of 5 I'd done before were very clean seed so maybe I didn't mess up too badly.

    katy
     
  13. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Bought some heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joes today.thanks for the help Martin,we sure want to save the seeds.
    BooBoo
     
  14. Paquebot2

    Paquebot2 Guest

    Don't panic but there is one comment in my original post which is NOT 100% correct. That is the mention of allowing the process to go on until the seed coat is black. Since I have never allowed the fermentation process to go beyond the active aerobic fungal/yeast stage, I could only rely on heresay information supplied by some other so-called "experts". The real experts say otherwise. When that process ends, it enters an anaerobic bacterial stage. Several days of that may not harm the seeds other than darken the seed coat. But several additional days may result in the seed trying to germinate and could cause a low percentage of viability. So, stick with the 5 days maximum for stopping the process and getting those seeds out of that gunk. The founder of Seed Savers Exchange says only 2 or 3 days but no doubt that is under ideal fermenting temperatures. Many years ago, I read that it takes a maximum 4 or 5 days and have stuck with that ever since. I've never a problem using that wise advice, even though I've long forgotten where I first read it.

    Martin
     
  15. tallpines

    tallpines Well-Known Member

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    bumping to SAVE from mod pruning :)
     
  16. lgslgs

    lgslgs Well-Known Member

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    Martin (or anyone else who knows) -

    When do you harvest the seeds. Do you do it when the tomato berry is fully ripe, or wait a while longer until it is starting to shrivel on the vine?

    Lynda
     
  17. james dilley

    james dilley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    From what I know you harvest the fruit to Eat, At that time you can Extract the seed for drying ,And to be saved. This is A great thread. We need it as A sticky.. Hint Hint Hint!!!!
     
  18. Queen Bee

    Queen Bee Well-Known Member Supporter

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    So tell us how to chose a tomato that we will save seeds from. Do we look for the prettiest, largest, colorful tomato OR do we look for the average tomato, of average size, average color, average in looks?? I know it's probably a stupid question but I needed to ask.. Thank you Queen Bee
     
  19. james dilley

    james dilley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'll chime in here, Look for color Size, And then try and get one from A plant that produces A large amount. But not over taxing the plant, And after you have Selected the Plant. Try a taste test on fruits fron A few plants that meet that Criteria, Then after the tast selection. Pick one that just speaks to you. You understand what I mean! when you see the perfect fruit you will just know it.. And if you can get the fruits from 2 or more plants to Enhance the broad range of Genetics that are there!!! If you get A plant that has better quality fruit . That would be A decent choice too. I'll climb down from my soap box for now!!!
     
  20. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Wow! I'd have thought that we lost this thread forever ages ago! Quite a shock to check in here and see a post I made from my brother's shop as a guest!

    For when to pick for seed saving:
    Seeds are mature and viable any time that color is showing.

    For what to pick:
    In theory, every fruit should be carrying the same genes no matter if it is the largest or smallest. However, tomatoes also have an interesting habit of developing a somatic change. It's not readily noticed unless there are two different colors involved. What happens is that a single branch will actually have a different set of genes. As a general rule, purist seed savers will save only from fruit which is closest to the standard for that variety. For the rest of us who like to see an improvement in everything, select the very best first and to heck with someone saying that a certain variety has to be only 12 ounces when we know that it can also be a pound!

    Martin