One of the skills our grandparentals practiced was seed-to-seed gardening. It was a beautiful practice that we have unfortunately forgotten but that I’m encouraged to see gardeners beginning to practice again. The idea behind seed-to-seed gardening is that you start your plants from your seed stock, allow the plant to mature and then save seeds from the mature plant for the following season. It’s a simple concept that has many benefits.
1-It’s free! After you buy or trade for your initial seed stock, you never have to buy it again. I’m using seed from plants I bought 10 years ago and in theory, should never have to replace that seed stock.
2-You KNOW the quality of your seed. No questioning whether the seeds were treated or whether the plants were healthy.
3-You’ll have seed perfectly adapted to your microclimate. If you save seeds from a plant that *thrived* in your location, you can be assured that the seed from that plant will produce thriving plants next summer.
4-You’re protecting a dwindling resource. It’s estimated that just a handful of companies OWN nearly all the seed stock available globally. That scares me, because whoever controls the food, controls the people. Conspiracy theories aside, we’ve lost an estimated 90% of seed species because we’ve given up saving seed. We can’t bring those species back, but we CAN protect what remains.
So let me encourage you to try your hand at saving seeds. Today, as we’re in the midst of tomato season, I’ll give you instructions on saving tomato seeds. They’re one of the few plants that have special requirements in order to utilize the seeds. Most plants just need the fruit to dry on the vine or stalk (beans, peas, corn, etc) in order to collect viable seeds, but tomatoes are just a bit different. Not difficult, just different. Here we go!
First, you need to choose several “perfect” examples of your favorite variety.… You want the best possible genetics involved, so pick fully-ripe tomatoes from healthy plants that thrived in your region. I used a big, homely Cherokee Purple tomato in this picture.
Next slice your tomatoes open to access the seedy goo. I’m sure there’s a technical name, but we’ll go with goo. The goo has chemicals in it that prevents seeds from germinating, so to have viable seeds, we need to remove the goo through fermentation. Don’t get squeamish on me…it’s an easy process and I promise you won’t poison yourself or your family. Use your finger or a utensil to scoop the goo from several tomatoes into a glass or pint-sized Mason jar.
Third step, fill your jar 1/2-2/3 full of warm water. You need some headspace, but you also need plenty of water for the goo to float in. Cover the jars with a baggie or plastic wrap and poke a few holes so the goo can breathe. Scared yet?! Now set the jars in a warm, sunny windowsill and leave it alone for a few days.
So now the magic happens. After you add the water and allow everything to be still, the goo will float. After a few days, you’ll notice white, moldy spunk on top of the water. That’s good news, my friends! After a few more days, you’ll begin to notice seeds dropping out of the goo and laying on the bottom of the jar….those are your viable seeds. Give your jar a little swish, allow the seeds to settle and then carefully pour the yucky water out. Carefully, friends. You don’t want to lose viable seed AND you don’t want fermented tomato goo to spill on your clothes! Trust me! What you should have left in the bottom of the jar is individual, clean seeds. Carefully pour them onto a sheet of parchment paper or a paper plate and allow the seeds to dry completely. This could take a few days, so don’t rush it. If you package damp seeds, you’ll have moldy sprouts in no time. Once they’re dry and ready to store, put the seeds in an airtight package like a sandwich baggie. I love the little seed bead bags you can purchase in the craft section at Walmart, but baggies are fine too. Now label your package and store it in a cool, dark place.
That’s it, my friends! You’ve successfully saved seed stock for the next growing season. Now wasn’t that fun?! Til next time….