How to Prepare and Store Seeds from your Tomato Plants

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Ripe tomatoes

It’s very easy to save your own tomato seeds from one year to the next, cutting your seed bill and, in time, creating plants perfectly suited to your growing conditions.

Most tomatoes hold 100 or more seeds, so you only need a few fruits for seed saving. Seeds from F1 hybrid varieties won’t come true to type, so only save those from traditional, open-pollinated tomatoes, sometimes called heirloom or heritage varieties.

Collecting Tomato Seeds

Collect your seeds from fully ripe fruits. Cut the tomato open then scoop out the fleshy pulp containing the seeds into a glass jar. Smaller tomatoes can just be burst and squeezed out. Top up with a little water and label the jar with the variety.

Removing the Gel

The gel surrounding the seeds inhibits germination and must be removed. Leave for two to five days to begin fermenting. This will break down the seed coat while killing off many of the harmful bacteria and fungi lurking on the seeds.

Removing the gel from tomato seeds

Cleaning Tomato Seeds

Check and gently swirl the jar every day. The seeds are ready for cleaning when the pulp floats to the top. A surface layer of scum may also develop, while most of the seeds will have sunk to the bottom. Carefully skim off the pulp then tip the liquid and seeds into a strainer. Wash the seeds under running water, using the back of a wooden spoon to carefully remove any remaining material stuck to the seeds.

Tomato pulp and water separating from seeds

Drying Tomato Seeds

Spread the seeds onto paper towel to remove most of the water, then transfer them to a non-stick surface such as a dinner plate. Dry the seeds in a warm place out of direct sunlight. It will take two to three weeks for the seeds to completely dry out.

Drying tomato seeds

Storing Tomato Seeds

Gently scrape the seeds into labeled paper envelopes. Store them in a dry place at a cool, steady temperature. You could store envelopes in a tin or other sealed container, together with silica gel crystals to keep the air dry. Seeds can store for up to five years.

Saving your own tomato seeds really doesn’t take much effort and there’s something deeply satisfying about the whole process. What other vegetable seeds do you save? Pop a few lines in the comments section below and tell us.

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Comments

 
"I save red russian kale seeds and purple dragon carrot seeds successfully"
Amy on Wednesday 30 March 2016
"Something you might want to point out, too, is that when you save seed you'll have seed next year of something that grew successfully in your conditions."
Joanna Sheldon on Friday 15 July 2016
"That's very true Joanna. Over time, by repeatedly saving seeds from one year to the next, you can evolve the crop to be perfectly suited to your growing conditions. "
Ben Vanheems on Friday 15 July 2016
"i successfully save my tomato seeds every year by just simply spreading them on a paper towel and leaving to dry .... when its time to plant them - soak the paper towel with water until the seed can be carefully lifted with a knife or toothpick and then planted into a seed raising mix ... ... "
Robyn Hessell on Friday 8 September 2017
"For years I grew Balconi red and yellow tomatoes in hanging baskets, and now they not available in the US, only the UK, and I never thought to save seeds. All the plants I've tried since have been too big for my space and have not produced as well. Does anyone know if this wonderful seed is being sold under another name, or where I might find it?"
Maura Odell on Sunday 17 September 2017
"Can I save the seeds from Bonnie brand plants? "
Charolette on Friday 6 July 2018
"You can save plants from any tomatoes, so long as they aren't hybrids. Take a look at the variety description for each tomato. If it says 'hybrid' then it's not worth saving seed from. Anything without this word, or that says 'heirloom' in the description, many have the seeds saved from it."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 9 July 2018
"And I'll add to the comment about saving seeds that "F1" is another designation for hybrid (first-generation hybrid). By the way, I for one have had little success growing heirloom tomatoes in Hastings (coastal, relatively cool and damp). Such tomatoes generally require good steady heat but don't do as well in my greenhouse as the hybrids that were developed to be grown in greenhouses. It's a shame -- I used to gather bushels of heirlooms from my vines in New York State -- but it has its compensations: I don't have to suffer through NYS summer heat while the tomatoes are cheerfully ripening in the field!"
Joanna on Monday 9 July 2018
"Every cloud has a silver lining Joanna!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 9 July 2018
"When you say the gel must be removed, do you mean it is removed through the fermentation process, or must I scrape it off before soaking the seeds for a few days? (Trying to save some seeds here in NY from tomatoes that someone gifted me, heirlooms which originally came from my mother’s garden 20 years ago!)"
CJ on Thursday 9 August 2018
"Hi CJ. My apologies for the late reply, I’ve been on vacation. Yes, by removing the gel we are talking about removing the pulp etc. from around the seeds, which takes place during the fermentation process. The fermentation process helps to completely clean the seeds, so that they are more likely to germinate when you come to see them next spring. Hope you have managed to save some seeds, and have good success growing them next year. "
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 15 August 2018
"I know it makes sense to select a strong plant from which to save tomato seed. Does the same principle apply to which fruit I should use? Should I pick the biggest specimen on that plant or will it not make any difference?"
Dennis Reynolds on Monday 27 August 2018
"It shouldn't really make any difference if the fruit is from the same plant, as it will carry the same genetic information throughout the plant."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 27 August 2018

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