Seed Saving for Beginners

Seed Saving for Beginners(cont.)

The experts CHOW spoke with suggested getting started with tomatoes and beans or peas if you are a beginning seed saver. Here’s how:


  • 1. When you know which plants you want to save seeds from (see Look Before You Eat!), let some tomatoes get slightly overripe on the vine. (In the case of tomatoes, the seeds are ripe when the fruit is ripe, notes Compost.) Pick the tomatoes and cut them in half horizontally—that’ll expose more seeds than cutting through the stem end. Dig the seeds and juice out and plop it all into a glass or jar that you’ve labeled with the tomato variety. Add a little water—Torgrimson recommends a ratio of half a cup of water for every cup of tomato seed.

    2. Put the container in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, and “preferably a place where odd smells won’t be noticed,” advises Land. The seeds need to ferment for one to three days so that the gelatinous coating around them (which acts as a germination inhibitor) breaks down and they can sprout more easily. If you have fruit flies, just put a paper towel over the top of the container and secure it with a rubber band; don’t use a solid lid—you need the air to circulate.

  • 3. After one to three days you’ll notice a layer of moldy-looking stuff on top (that’s OK!) and some seeds that are floating and some that are sunken. Skim and discard the mold and floating seeds—if the seeds are light enough to float, they are probably poorly formed and won’t germinate.

    4. Add cool water to the container and swirl it around to rinse the seeds, then dump everything through a strainer and rinse the seeds well with more cool water.

  • 5. Now it’s time to dry the seeds. Most people use a paper plate, since the seeds stick to ceramic. (You can also use coffee filters or waxed paper, but don’t use paper towels—the seeds may never come off!) Spread the seeds on the plate and leave it somewhere out of direct sunlight but with good air circulation. Torgrimson says the seeds usually dry within a few days but suggests this technique to be sure: Touch the seeds, rub them together a little, and confirm that they feel dry. Err on the side of drying longer—you don’t want the seeds to mold after you store them.

    6. Gather your seeds and store them in a labeled envelope. Put them in a cool, dark (this is very important so they don’t try to sprout), dry spot like a drawer until you are ready to plant. Torgrimson says the fridge is also good if you have the space. And according to Compost, if stored properly the seeds will last a few years.
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