Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Collecting and Saving Seeds from the Garden

Somehow, collecting seeds from my garden produce has become an afterthought, even after all these years of gardening.  I don’t know how many tomatoes I enjoyed this summer before I froze in my tracks—I’d forgotten to collect seeds from my own delicious tomatoes!
I ended up throwing away the moldy ones.  How did I let that happen?

But I remembered earlier this week, and saved a few overripe Sun Gold cherry tomatoes to use for seeds.  (Bigger tomatoes don’t need to be sacrificed for the cause, but these are so tiny that there’s no point in scraping out seeds and trying to salvage the flesh for eating.)

I love saving seeds as a way to be resourceful and self-sufficient and keep heirloom varieties alive (even if the seed companies are doing it, too).  Someday when we’re homesteading on our own farm (and now while we do what we can on this farm) I’d rather not rely on seed companies for all of my seeds.  Plus, if there’s a variety I really love, like this one, I’m guaranteed to get the same great flavor from its offspring.  It’s so fun—and easy—to save your own seeds.  It just takes a little fermentation.

Here’s my no-frills method for collecting and saving seeds from my garden:


1. Start with ripe (or slightly overripe) tomatoes.  Scrape the seeds out of the tomatoes’ cavities and into a small bowl, juice, goop and all.  For these cherry tomatoes, I just squeezed the tomatoes until they popped open and all the seeds and goo came out.  Remember to separate your tomatoes by variety first!

2. Add a few drops of water, or a bit more if you have a lot of tomatoes.  I’ve found that adding too much water will slow or prevent fermentation.  Leave the bowl uncovered in a warmish place, like a windowsill or countertop.  This will allow mold spores in the air to enter the container and start the fermentation process.  Fermentation breaks down the seed’s gel casing, allowing it to germinate in your garden next year.

3. After about 24 hours, cover the container (I used plastic wrap) and let it sit another 24 hours or so.  You can swirl the seeds around every so often to keep them coated or just totally ignore them.  I’ve tried both methods and they both work.

4. After about 48 hours or so, uncover, swirl and rinse seeds in a fine sieve.  Rinse several times and press them lightly against the sieve to make sure the gel casing is gone and the goop’s been washed away.

5. Lay seeds on a clean tea towel or paper towel and press to dry.  Transfer to a paper plate, separate seeds as best as you can and leave to completely air dry – a few days to a week, depending on how crowded your plates are.  Don't forget to label your varieties.

6. Store completely dry seeds in glass jars or paper envelopes for planting next year.  Sometimes I use plastic sandwich bags and rip off the label from my plate and stick it inside.

Squash, pumpkins, gourds and more

I’ve successfully saved seeds from winter squash, pumpkins and gourds just by separating seeds from the goop inside, rinsing them well and drying before storing. 

If you’re hungry, toast some in the oven with butter and salt them when they come out.  Delicious and free!  Quite resourceful and homesteading-like.


  1. Oh, thank you for this helpful post. I am still learning so much about gardening, and I love to hear your practical tips! I've only ever grown things from seed by mistake... pumpkins in the compost! We are just coming into spring, so I am so excited to be getting back into the garden... Thanks for the inspiration! grace

  2. Thanks so much for showing this with photos. I often collect the easy seeds from my Holly Hocks and Marigolds but didn't have a clue how to do it from my tomatoes.

  3. Thank you! I was just thinking about doing this this year and wondered if there were any special techniques to it.

  4. I've often thought of saving my seeds and this was just what I needed to ensure that I will actually do it. Thanks for the great tutorial! Found you at Bacon Time :)

  5. Great post, I love Sun Gold tomatoes, and have some growing in my garden right now, I will definitely give this a try! I almost always have a few volunteers that plant themselves from fallen tomatoes, but this way I could ensure that they were the right variety. Thanks for sharing this technique!

  6. This is great!! I've done some gardening but I've never saved seeds before. Thanks for the super clear instructions!

  7. Ahh, yes - seed saving. One of those tasks I need to get to NOW. Like everything else. Reclaiming my garden this year has both rejuvenated me AND exhausted me. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Great idea! THanks for showing it off. I will have to try this. Your blog was chosen as my blog of the week for next week if you are interested! Email me or leave me a comment on my features post!


  9. We have a tomato garden and my toddler loves to squish them. I had no idea you could do this with tomato seeds.
    Thanks for sharing at Bacon Time.

  10. I've saved seeds from flowers but never Tomatoes... thanks for the info. Will have to try it!

  11. Agh I lost my comment. Anyway, I was saying your knitting is so pretty. I am looking forward to seeing the secret project. That pumpkin is the cutest too!


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