Millions of Tomatoes, Tomatoes for Free

September 14, 2011 |  by  |  Blog

The crenelated chambers of an heirloom tomato

Every time I slice a tomato and see the puddle of seeds left on the cutting board, I can’t help but think of next year’s garden. Each seed carries the potential to be a tall, bushy plant heavy with fruit. Bearing bushels of tomatoes to be canned, sauced, salsa-ed, sliced and sprinkled with vinegar and salt. It seems like such waste to simply wash them down the drain to a meaningless end.

Saving seeds is one of those mental hurdles that only needs one solid attempt to clear. And once you do, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered by tomato seeds from the garden center.

Step 1) Slice or chop up the tomato for whatever recipe you are following for dinner. Pick a ripe (but not overripe), flavorful, meaty tomato that has all the best qualities you would want to see in your garden next year.

Next years crop

Step 2) Gather the seeds into a small glass jar. I use leftover mustard and jam jars. You want something large enough to hold a bit of water and have enough room to shake it up well (and make sure the lid is water tight).

Step 3) Shake, swirl and agitate the seeds in the jar. Then let the seeds sit somewhere out of the sunlight. Wait patiently. Every so often, when you are getting impatient, go give it another swirl.

Step 4) Hold your jar up to the light. Each seed is covered in a gelatinous, clear coating. What you are looking for is for the coating to dissolve, leaving a naked seed. It will take as long as a day or two.

Step 5) Pour off as much of the water and any seeds that are floating at the top (these are inferior seeds that shouldn’t be saved). Use a fine sieve to drain the remaining water. Spread the seeds on a paper towel or paper plate to dry completely.

Soaking away the clear, jelly layer around the seed.

Step 6) Store in an airtight container.  Tomato seeds remain viable for years, even stored at room temperature.

Step 7) Put your feet up and start planning your garden calendar for next year.


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