Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Having grown five varieties of Heirloom tomatoes this summer, I decided to try my hand at saving seeds from each.  Heirloom seeds have a shorter shelf life, but you can acquire new seeds each growing season, so I really don't see that as a problem.  The characteristics of a plant grown from heirloom seeds are true to that of the mother plant, unlike seeds saved from a hybridized plant where there is no assurance of what you'll get.  In the 1940's F1 hybrids were started in order to offer different varieties.  The hybrids had a tougher skin which gave them a longer shelf life, thereby improving the quality of shipped tomatoes.
To collect my seeds, I held one tomato of each variety over a glass container and squeezed the seeds out.  Clockwise from the top left corner: Black Krim, Dr. Wyche's Yellow, Green Zebra, Mortgage Lifter and Cherokee Purple.
Tomato seeds are covered with a gelatinous coating that needs to be removed prior to drying and saving.
I covered each container with 1/2 cup of water.  After a week to ten days of replacing the water daily, stirring to help separate the waste from the seeds, and removing the occasional mold that forms on top of the water, the seeds were clean and ready to dry.
Once free of the gelatinous covering, my tomato seeds looked the same.  Thankfully, I labeled each one at the start when they were at their most colorful.  Placed on a sunny window ledge, the seeds were thoroughly dry after a few days.
Each variety is labeled and sealed in an envelope, then stored in a dark, cool location until next spring.  This is the ultimate in recycling, using seeds from one season to the next, the way our grandparents grew their tomatoes.  I believe this is the right way to sustain our gardens.

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