Many people are intimidated to harvest tomato seed. Nothing could be easier!! Select fruit from a desired variety that you have maintained by proper isolation distance or caging. Keep the varieties separate and labeled to eliminate the possibility of mixing seed varieties.
Harvest when fruit is fully colored and ripe. Tomatoes may be individually harvested as they ripen. It is not required for seed fruit to be harvested all at one time.
Make sure you harvest fruit that comes from healthy plants and fruit (disease free).
Fermentation of tomato seed is required prior to drying. Fermentation removes the gel coat around each seed. The gel coat may inhibit germination.
Let’s get started!
Cut tomato in half or quarter and crush tomato fruit into a jar or bowl. Add a small amount of water to the pulp.
Allow pulp to ferment for 2-4 days (2 days if 80°-95° (F), 4 days if below 80° (F)). The fermentation process loosens the jelly around the seed. The jelly contains compounds that inhibit germination.
Add water to the fermented pulp and agitate. Viable seed will stay on the bottom while the fermented material and bad seed will float to the top. Strain mixture to remove the pulp and fermented material.
Place the moist seeds on a labeled and dated paper plate and allow to dry for 2 weeks. Paper towels, unbleached coffee filters or framed fine screens will work as well.
Scrape seed off of the paper plate and place in a labeled paper envelope (place envelope in a freezer zip lock bag) or small glass jar with a desiccant*. Place saved seed in a cool, dark and dry place or your freezer. If properly stored the seed will last 4 to 6 years.
Saving tomato seed is easily accomplished and low tech. Plus, the saved seed will last for many years. The following year try other varieties as the current years seed will be viable for up to six years!! This will be your one-of-a-kind tomato seed collection.
- *Desiccant – is a substance that removes humidity/moisture.