Harvesting seeds from a successful plant in your garden is a great way to save money. If you find a type that grows especially well in your garden then harvesting the seeds and planting them the next year might be your best option for continued tomato success. Using the seeds from your own tomatoes gives you the opportunity to keep the traits of a specific tomato in next years crop, like the fruit size and taste. Some people simply harvest a few seeds as they use each tomato rather than using one tomato to propagate the following year’s crop. However, you only need to collect seeds from one tomato to supply enough seeds for next year’s garden. I often harvest seeds from two or three varieties simply to have the variety available to me come harvest time.
Before selecting which tomato to harvest seeds from make certain you know what variety of tomato you are growing. The best and most reliable tomato plants to harvest seeds from will be labeled as old fashioned, heirloom, standard or non-hybrid. Some hybrid tomatoes will produce the same plant, others will not. The results from seeds harvested from hybrid plants are unpredictable, some will not produce seeds at all. If you would like to experiment with harvested hybrid seeds and see what grows then I suggest that you also harvest from a more predicable plant as well to ensure tomatoes for next years harvest.
Step One: Select a tomato that is thoroughly ripe and soft. Wash and dry some plastic or glass containers to store your seeds safely until planting time. The number of containers you need depended on their size and the amount of seeds you want to harvest. Airtight jars like canning or baby food gars work very well for keeping your seeds safe and dry until planting time.
Step Two: Wash and cut the tomato in half across the middle, not top to bottom. Squeeze the seeds from the tomato gently into a container, bowl or jar.
Step Three: Finish filling the seed container with water and stir. The best seeds should sink to the bottom. Be aware that green seeds are not reliable.
Step Four: Pour out the water, floating seeds and pulp. Be careful not to loose good seeds down the drain. Repeat the process until your seeds are clean. Put your freshly washed seeds in a mesh strainer, then rinse and drain.
Step Five: Spread the drained seeds out on a plate. Place the plate where it will be safe and out of direct sunlight. Let the seeds sit until they are thoroughly dry, this may take anywhere from one to three days depending on your weather. Stir the seeds at least once a day while drying to ensure that they do not stick together.
Step Six: Store dried seeds in a cool, dry, dark place in your prepared containers. I suggest labeling the containers with the type of tomato plant the seeds were harvested from as well as the month and year harvested. This will help you track your success with specific varieties if you harvest seeds from multiple varieties of plants.
The seeds are most reliable when used for the following season, however they have a good chance of germinating in later years if need be. I have always kept my seeds in a pantry or garage. However, some gardeners keep their sealed jars of seeds in refrigerators or freezers.