Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seed saving season

Every winter I receive at least a dozen seed catalogs that encourage me to think ahead to spring. And every fall I consider that if I would save my own seeds, I wouldn’t need to buy as many next year. This year, I’ve tried to do more than just think about seed saving.

Squash and bean seeds are easy enough to save. Squash seeds are large so I rinse them then put them in a bowl or on a paper towel to dry before storing them in a glass or hard plastic jar and labeling. Beans can be left on the vine until they dry then it’s simple to open the pod and pop them out for storage.

Then there are tomatoes. I’ve tried a few different methods but I think the one Jim showed me this year worked the best. It’s the method he used for years as a farmer and agriculture teacher, now adapted to our back yard garden. Here’s what I did.

1. Collect all frost-bitten (or too green to ripen) tomatoes from the vines. Put them in a bucket.

2. Let the rain cover them. If it doesn’t rain, use your water hose to add water. (The rainwater is my addition. Jim prefers the power of the garden hose to help separate the seed from the pulp.)

3. Put on your rubber gloves, crush the remaining tomato chunks with your hands, releasing the seeds into the water. Remove as much pulp and skin as you can.

4. Soak for a week or so to encourage seed separation from the rest of the pulp.

5. Place half of a large screen over another bucket. Pour out the water and seeds over the screen. The seeds and a few tomato bits will remain on the screen. Cover the seeds with another screen (to avoid feeding the birds)and put outside in the sun with the top screen securely in place. (We used bricks to hold it down.)

6. Let seeds dry. If the sun is out and you’ve removed most of the tomato bits, it shouldn’t take more than a day or two.

7. Use your hand and fingertips to loosen seeds from screen and pour into a storage jar. Label and keep for spring.

I collected my Constaluto Genovese and San Marzano seeds yesterday then reused those screens for two other types of tomatoes. I had hoped to collect the rest of the dried seeds today but Mother Nature delayed me with a morning rain. That’s okay because planting season is still months away and Mr. Sunshine is at work to dry for me.


  1. Bonjour,c'est une bonne méthode...
    personnellement je récupère les graines de tomates sans attendre plusieurs jours en ouvrant les tomates et en récupérant les graines. je les mes à sécher tout de suite comme vous le faite et l'affaire est jouée... amicalement Jean-Philippe

  2. Merci. Where do you put them to dry? I once tried on a paper towel but they stuck to it.