Wednesday, August 26, 2009

saving tomato seeds

Choosing seeds from a collection of tomatoes

Seeds positioned on paper towel

Hanging out to dry

Using up the pieces

My new hosts are keen to expand their knowledge of gardening and we have just been discussing seed saving. This is an easy method for saving tomato seeds that I thought I should share it with you too.

I learned this technique from Christian, one of my earlier hosts here in France and it is ideal for saving a small number seed from those precious heirloom varieties that are difficult to come by. It will not work for Hybrid varieties as they probably won’t come true the following year.

It is best to take seed early in the season from one of the first ripe tomatoes of each variety as there is minimal chance of cross pollination. If this is not an option, just choose a good ripe tomato at any time and note down its name.

Gather a roll of kitchen paper, a pen, chopping board, a good sharp knife and the tomatoes from which you want to save some seeds. Spread these out on a table or flat work surface. The seeds are saved onto sheets of kitchen paper. Take one piece of paper, decide how many seeds you want to save and divide the page accordingly. The pictures show pages of individual varieties and also divided pages with many varieties. Write the name of the tomato to one side of the sheet and choose the relevant fruit.

Slice the end off a fruit with the knife and discard the end. Still using the knife, carefully scoop out individual seeds from the inside of the tomato and place them on the paper. Leave enough space between each seed so that the paper does not become completely wet with juice or it will be very difficult to move. Continue scooping out the seed from that fruit and placing them on the paper until you have enough seed for your requirements. To reach further into the fruit, slice away empty sections of pith and skin, this makes it is easier to reach more seeds. If there are not many seeds in the fruit, select another one of the same variety and continue until you have enough seed. If you are saving multiple varieties per page, draw a line under the collection to distinguish it from the next variety.

The tomato remains can be kept and eaten just as usual. Added to a salad, sauce or soup, or discarded into the compost heap just as you decide.

Repeat until you have all the seeds that you require. Hang or lie the papers somewhere warm and dry to allow the moisture from the seeds to evaporate. The jelly around the seed will disappear and the seed will be much more visible. Once they are completely dry, the seed will have adhered to the paper quite firmly and the pages are ready to store. Keep them flat in a file or box where they will get minimal disturbance, lessening the chance of individual seeds becoming detached and put it somewhere cool, dry and dark.

Christian is an avid seed swapper and has devised a cunning way of providing small collections of each variety for exchange. Each large sheet of kitchen paper of an individual variety is divided into horizontal sections, a line of 8 or 9 seeds in each section, leafing about 1/3 of the page clear down the left hand side. When the page is dry, he sticks on a printed strip of paper with the full name of the variety and a brief description, duplicated to correspond with the number if lines of seed, on the blank area, and then, as required, each individual strip is carefully cut off and sent out to the person who wants them.

With the help of this description, and the photographs, it should be fairly easy for you to collect the seeds of tomatoes that you want to grow again, store them, share them and keep them for the following season.


Anonymous said...

...seed question: if my greenhouse has suffered a bit of blight...can I still save seeds now? or could they be affected?
xx Moi

joy said...

if I ever do any gardening . .how likely is it let's face it . .I will know exactly what to do. Maggie & her husband are off to jaunt around the world for 2 months so have shown her your blog so she can find out about lovely places to visit in New Zealand and Australia amongst other parts take care xx joy

Anonymous said...

HI Sam

Are you being very busy?? what about an update?? hope all OK