How to Save Tomato Seeds in 8 Simple Steps

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How to Save Tomato Seeds in 8 Simple Steps

Homegrown tomatoes are hard to beat when eaten fresh off the plant, but they’re also endlessly useful for making sauce, juice, salsa, salads, and so much more. The best tomatoes in your garden this year also can be your key to a delicious harvest next year when you know how to save tomato seeds. Collecting the seeds takes a little know-how and time, but it’s a simple process you can do with items you’ve likely already got in your kitchen. Follow our tips for picking out the best tomatoes for seeds, and then follow the eight steps below for saving tomato seeds for next year.

overhead tomatoes sliced with seeds visible

How to Plant and Grow Tomato Plants

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Knife
  • Small spoon
  • Small jar
  • Strainer
  • Container or bag

Materials

  • Tomato
  • Paper towel or coffee filter
  • Rubber band
  • Labels
  • Warm water
  • Paper plate or newspaper

Instructions

How to Save Tomato Seeds

An individual tomato often has 100 or more seeds. Once you know how to save tomato seeds, the time spent will yield enough seeds for you and some for your neighbors. Save seeds properly following this simple step-by-step plan, and you can expect your collected seeds to produce robust tomato plants for several years after the seeds are initially harvested.

Tomato seed saving involves fermentation. The fermentation process prepares tomato seeds for storage by producing antibiotics that help control seed-borne diseases. Fermentation also promotes a protective seed coat that will prevent the seeds from germinating until they are planted. Don’t skip the fermenting step because it’s vital to saving tomato seeds.

  1. Choose a Perfect Tomato

    The best fruit will yield the best seeds. Allow tomatoes to fully ripen on the vine, and select a large, unblemished fruit with a pleasing shape and color.

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  2. Wash and Cut

    Good hygiene will go a long way toward giving you the best tomato seeds. Thoroughly wash the tomato and allow it to air dry. Cut the fruit in half along the center.

  3. Remove the Seeds

    Using a small spoon or your fingers, gently scoop the seeds from the tomato cavities into a small jar. The seeds will be coated with a jelly-like material. Pulp and liquid will likely end up in the jar too. The seed-pulp mixture is perfect for fermentation.

  4. Cover the Jar and Ferment

    Cover the jar of seed-pulp mixture with a paper towel or coffee filter secured with a rubber band. Label the jar if you’re saving more than one variety of tomato seeds. Leave the jar in a warm location, ideally between 60 and 70℉, for three days.

  5. Stir Mixture Once a Day

    Gently stir the mixture once a day to dislodge the jelly-like material around the tomato seeds. Don’t be surprised if a white fungus appears on top of the mixture after a few days. This helpful fungus will consume the jelly, preparing the seeds for storage.

  6. Separate the Seeds From the Pulp

    After three days, fill the jar with warm water and allow the seeds to settle to the bottom of the jar. Gently pour out the water along with tomato pulp and any seeds that float. The viable seeds are heavy and will sink to the bottom of the jar. Repeat the process of filling the jar with warm water, allowing seeds to settle, and pouring out the water and debris until the discarded water is nearly clear.

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  7. Dry Seeds

    Pour seeds into a strainer, allowing excess water to drip out. Then, spread the seeds on a paper plate or newspaper. Allow seeds to dry at room temperature in a well-ventilated place for several days. Stir the seeds daily with your fingers to separate them and promote even drying.

  8. Store in a Cool, Dry Place

    Place dry seeds in a labeled container or bag. The best storage place is cool, dry, and dark. A cabinet is ideal. Seeds don’t need to be refrigerated.

Seeds from Heirloom vs. Hybrid Tomatoes

Not all tomatoes have seeds that will grow into plants that look (or taste) like their parent. Modern hybrids like ‘Big Boy’ and ‘Celebrity’ are created from two unique parent plants. For example, the seeds that a hybrid tomato plant produces will not result in another ‘Celebrity’ tomato plant. Instead, the seed will likely yield a small, inferior fruit on a rangy plant. Avoid disappointment, and don’t save seeds from hybrid tomatoes.

Heirloom tomato plants, on the other hand, do produce seed that is exactly like the parent plant most of the time. Heirloom tomatoes rarely cross-breed with other tomatoes, so they create uniform fruit from generation to generation. If you are unsure if your tomato plant is an heirloom or a hybrid, do a quick online search of the variety name.

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RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
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TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
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This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.