Growing tomatoes in your own garden is a brilliant idea, especially since you won't have to eat the bland varieties sold in the shops. If you've started this year, consider saving some tomato seeds from your harvest for next season. It's easy and quick, but there are a few precautions to take into account! Let's see how to do it.
When should you collect tomato seeds?
If you want to reproduce your own tomato seeds, we advise against collecting those from the first and last fruits of the season. The first fruits are generally smaller and the last ones are likely to be affected by mildew, one of the most common cryptogamic diseases on tomatoes. Another reason not to collect seeds too late is to be sure that all the fruits are ripe, as the seeds of green tomatoes are often still sterile.
To avoid any worries, I generally collect the seeds of my best tomatoes between mid-August and mid-September. It is, for me, the best period to do this operation since the fruits are generally healthy, and of very good size. Don't forget that a good selection of seeds is a very important criterion since they will contain the characteristics of the tomato from which they originate.
Which tomatoes to choose for this operation?
To recover the sprouts, it is essential to pay great attention to the choice of the fruit you are going to select. To begin with, the fruit chosen must be ripe, as previously mentioned. It is necessary that it reaches maturity in such a way that it "bursts" (or almost) in your hands (or almost) in your hands without you exerting strong pressure on it. Only when this condition is met can you be sure that the tomato is ripe and contains plenty of future seeds.
Keep in mind, however, that it is not necessary to collect the seed from all the fruits of a variety. Instead, for a good collection, you should try to choose only one fruit per species. Since it will represent the rest of its lineage, try to select the most beautiful and ripest of them.
Be careful : avoid selecting seeds from a hybrid plant. They are usually designated as F1 on commercial seed packets. Even though it may seem advantageous to plant them in the garden because of their better resistance to disease, you should still be aware that they may cause severe degeneration of your tomato plants the following year. In other words, by harvesting tomato seeds from an F1 plant, you risk obtaining poor quality plants the following year... or not at all. It is in a way a lottery then prefer to buy seeds paysannes, completely reproducible without bad surprise.
What are the steps to follow to get tomato seeds?
Now that you have all the information you need to select the ideal fruit, here's what you need to do to retrieve its seeds. The first thing you need to do for this purpose is to cut the chosen fruit in half with a knife. After cutting, you will notice the part containing the seeds.
Then use a small spoon to collect the seeds. At this point you don't have to take only the seeds. You can collect the whole thing, including the juice, and strain it through a sieve. Then wash them under the tap.
Then put all the seeds and the surrounding gelatine in a bowl and add a little water. After this step, wait for about 2 or 3 days for fermentation. Generally, it depends on the temperature to which the bowl is subjected. The more ambient the heat, the faster the fermentation.
Wait until a sort of whitish layer develops on the surface of the water. The appearance of this layer is very important, as it eliminates certain bacteria.
Once fermentation is complete, you can remove the small layer that has formed on the surface. Then wash the remaining gelatine off the seeds.
Be careful not to leave the seeds in the water for too long, otherwise they may germinate. As you can see in the picture below, many seeds have sprouted. Unfortunately, they will not be productive next year and will be thrown away.
All you have to do now is to dry the seeds so that you can store them for a new harvest. However, it is best to avoid using paper towels when drying, as it is difficult to separate the seeds. The best thing to do is to use a dry cloth to spread the seeds on.
Then put them in a small paper bag, and store them in a cooler room, with a humidity level not too high. For my part, it is in the garage that they spend the winter :)