Monty Don was recently explaining how to save tomato seeds on Gardeners’ World. I know this not because I watch it, but because his method (sticking seeds to paper towel) was roundly slated on Twitter. I’m fairly sure I tried that once, and that it worked just fine, but it was a long time ago and to be honest I just can’t remember.
The lovely folks at Victoriana Nursery Gardens were emphatic that this is not a good way to do it:
Tomato seed – never on paper and never re-hydrate -PLEASE DON’T #shoutyhalfhour
— Victoriana Nursery (@Victoriana_NG) September 11, 2015
Stephen Shirley has recorded a video showing you how to do it, right from collecting the fruits:
Stephen does a lot of seed saving every year, so he should know what he’s talking about 🙂 And Real Seeds (ditto), recommend the fermenting method as well:
Several years ago I had the opportunity to talk to Tom Wagner, who breeds new varieties of potatoes and tomatoes, and saves a lot of seed. He was not a fan of the fermenting method – he though (iirc) that it left the seeds vulnerable to disease. He used chemicals to remove the pulp and clean the seeds. It is not a route I would want to go down, but the various options were discussed on the Tomatoville forum.
So… ask several experts the best way to save tomato seeds, and you’ll get several answers. So I thought I would try it for myself and see what the results are. As you can see from the photo that opens this post, by the time I got around to trying it, my tomatoes were a bit past their best 🙂 They’re ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ (and I had to go back to my notes to find that out, because none of the plants was labelled. Doh!), small and seedy. Removing the pulp was messy, and the seeds stuck to everything.
Sticking seeds to kitchen roll was relatively quick and easy. Squeezing pulp into a jar was considerably more disgusting.
Three days later, the seeds on the kitchen paper have dried out, and it just takes a couple of minutes to fold them up and stick them in an envelope for next year. Job done.
The jar of fermenting seeds looks and smells much the same, with a bit more mould. Cleaning the seeds now involves getting rid of the yukky bits.
Several bouts of flushing with water and tipping it out, plus fishing out the chunks with a spoon, and you’re left with good seeds that sink to the bottom in a matter of seconds.
And from there it’s just a question of draining them through a sieve and leaving them on a plate to dry. That takes a few days, and then you can pack them up – I haven’t done that yet, they’re still sitting on the dining room table.
Of course, whether or not each method works, and which is better, remains to be seen. I won’t know until I try and sow the seeds next year. Is the kitchen roll method good enough for an amateur gardener with a few seeds? Is the fermenting method intrinsically better, or just quicker if you’re batch processing a lot of tomatoes?
Do you save your own tomato seeds? If so, which method do you use?