Even though a couple or three recent reader emails have suggested that there are all sorts of things that have nothing to do with gardening and might serve to curb the exercise in redundancy they claim this column has become, more than half a dozen other readers have asked that I rerun one of the old columns on saving tomato seeds.
Over the last four decades, I’ve found myself updating the seed saver column at least a dozen times at some point between mid- August and late October. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve explained my method for saving tomato seeds in each of the last four consecutive years. There’s no telling how many times I’ve written it up since 1983, the year that the late Molly Helton taught me how to do it.
However, until last year, I had believed that the best reason to save tomato seeds by fermenting them, as opposed to simply drying them on a paper towel, was to keep the seeds cleaner and easier to store and handle come planting.
Good friend and fellow tomato fan, Berea pharmacist
Joseph Chowning, after the column ran last August, told me that the fermentation process infused the seeds with good bacteria that improves germination and may inoculate the seeds against several seedborne plant diseases. I know for sure that I have rarely, if ever, lost plants I grew from seed to blight, powdery mildew, fungi, and a host of other plant diseases, whereas I lose a significant number of greenhouse or store-bought plants to one disease or another. Anyway, back by popular demand, here’s how to do it.
Fill a quart jar about two- -thirds full of tap water. Push the seeds out of a slice or several slices of tomato with a fork or teaspoon handle into the jar of water. Stick your fingers and whatever handle you’re using down into the water to rinse off any seed that may have stuck to them. Pay no mind to the bits of tomato flesh or peel that fell into the water with the seeds.
After you have as many seeds as you think you’ll need — one tomato will usually have over a hundred the pan when you scoop the seeds into it. It will evaporate within a few hours if you sit the pan on top of your refrigerator. At least it does on mine.
Let the seeds dry for about a week or 10 days then use your thumb or finger to loosen them from the tin, store them in a Ziplock baggie, make sure you label it and stash them in your freezer. Come next spring you will have easyto individually-handle, very clean, fuzzy little tomato seeds from which you can count on nearly 100 percent germination.
Do make sure that the fruit from which you are saving seeds is not a hybrid variety. If you save seeds from a hybrid tomato, they will come up but the fruit won’t look anything like the original. You probably will not be pleased with the result unless you are crazy about very sour tommy-toes.
In other words, do not try this with a store-bought tomato. Even if you find one that actually tastes like a tomato, chances are very high that its offspring will be villains.
Tune in here next week and we hope to be able to offer you a way to affordably purchase a collection of tomato seeds that I am currently in the process of fermenting.