Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Next Year's Tomatoes

My friend Sharon's grandfather created his own heirloom tomato, and her family has been saving the seeds for many years to keep them going.  I was lucky enough to receive a beautiful tomato and told how to save the seeds for next year.
Sharon's method was simple.  She said to scoop out the seeds and put them on a paper towel to let them dry for a few days. Then seal them in an air-tight container and store in a cool, dry place until you're ready to plant.  Dave's Garden outlines a similar process.

I had to complicate matters by Googling "saving tomato seeds" and reading all about fermenting the tomato seeds first, which isn't necessary, but helps to sort out the bad seeds, and is "good etiquette" if you're planning to trade seeds.  I like the idea of simple, but the fermentation process intrigued me, and didn't seem like much more work. 

1) I took my very ripe tomato and scooped out the seeds and put them in a jar with 1/4 cup of water.
2. After 3-5 days in a sealed jar, a film and some mold grew on top.
I skimmed the mold/film off the top, and then added some water and stirred.  The good seeds will supposedly sink to the bottom. I carefully poured out the water and bits of pulp, using the spoon to hold back the bunch of seeds.

3. I put the seeds on a paper plate to absorb some of the liquid and help them dry faster. 

4. I put them in an air-tight container (a Ziploc) and stored in a cool dry place (the basement). 

I'm going to do this with one of our Brandywine tomatoes now that they're finally looking healthy and ripe,
and our Black Cherry tomatoes,
because we picked up the plant in Vermont and I didn't see that variety at any of our local gardening centers.  I know they look green here, but even at their ripest, there's still a little green on top.  They are delicious, and look so pretty in a salad with the Sun Gold and Sweet Cherry tomatoes.

Assuming that at least some of these seeds grow to be plants, we can invest in a few new varieties next year.  Do you have a favorite tomato that you've grown?  What else should we try?

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