Heirloom Tomatoes: Two Ways to Save Tomato Seeds

Heirloom Tomatoes: Two Ways to Save Tomato Seeds

As our gardens wind down for the season, it’s time to start harvesting and saving your heirloom tomato seeds!  Today, I want to show you how you can save your tomato seeds for next years planting with 2 different methods, both of which are very simple, the wet method and the dry method.

Before we begin, people often ask if they can save hybrid tomato seeds.

The answer is yes, however, hybrid seeds, also known as “indeterminate” seeds, may or may not give you the same attributes as before.  If you’re ok with that, then you can save hybrid seeds.  For me, however, I want and need results, so I stick with heirloom seeds.

tomatoes on cutting board


How to Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds – The Wet Method

For the first method of saving heirloom tomato seeds, which is called the “Wet Method”, you’ll need:

  • A small pot filled with clean potting soil
  • Not-so-fresh tomatoes, not going bad but slightly squishy
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Plastic wrap

potting soil in flower pot

Here’s my pot that I filled with clean potting soil.  Whatever you use, make sure it’s not too shallow, the roots will need some room to grow.

How to Can Tomatoes the RIGHT Way

heirloom tomato

Simply slice your tomatoes in 1/4-1/2″ or so slices, perfection is not required.

wet method

Place the slices on the potting soil like so.  Do not water them or cover them with soil!

Don’t worry, the tomato seeds will know what to do!

How to Prevent Weeds in a Vegetable Garden

wet method

Cover your pot with plastic wrap.

How to Start Seeds Indoors

pot full of potting soil

Place the pot in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to start your seedlings inside!  I just put my heirloom tomato seeds in a second refrigerator and covered them with paper bags.

If you have a really cold spot in your basement or garage, that could work but it needs to be cold enough (below 50 degrees) for the seeds to stay dormant.

When it’s seed starting time, bring your pot full of tomato seeds out and place it in a warm, sunny window or wherever you start your seeds.  Under grow lights would be good too!

You’ll begin to see a LOT of little seedlings coming up!

You can choose the best and strongest ones and pull out the rest.  As the seedlings grow, it may become necessary to transplant them into a larger pot before they’re ready to go outside.

How easy is that??!!


Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds – The Dry Method

heirloom tomato on cutting board

Now for the “Dry Method” you’ll need:

  • Not-so-fresh tomato
  • Small bowl
  • Strainer
  • Paper towel or napkin

First, quarter your tomato.

quartered tomato on cutting board

Next, with your thumbs, gently scoop out the tomato seeds directly into your bowl.

wet tomato seeds in a container

Put a little water (enough to cover the seeds) in your bowl and let it sit for 3-4 days to ferment.  You’ll know it’s ready when it looks really scummy.

This fermentation process helps to dissolve the gel sac around the tomato seeds, which inhibits germination.

fermenting method of seeds

Ready!  It took about 4 days for me.

rinsing tomato seeds in strainer

Pour your tomato seeds into a strainer and rinse all the scum off, you may want to use your fingers to move the seeds around so they’ll be clean.

seeds in strainer

Next, put your seeds on a paper towel (placed on a plate of some kind) and let them dry.

seeds on a paper towel

You might be wondering how long it takes for the seeds to dry before planting!  I set mine outside on a really hot day, the drying process didn’t take long at all!  Just make sure they’re good and dry so that mold won’t grow on your heirloom tomato seeds.

tomato seeds on paper towel drying

Once they’re dry, your heirloom tomato seeds might be stuck to the paper towel.  Don’t panic, gently scrape them off with your fingernail.  If a little bit of paper towel fuzz is still on the seed, it’s ok.  That’s preferred over damaging the seed.

dried tomato seeds on paper towel

Store your heirloom tomato seeds in a seed envelope or other container in a dark, cool place until next year!!

sprouted tomato seedlings

This is what my heirloom tomato seeds looked like the following year!  Once they have their second set of leaves or true leaves, I’ll separate and transplant into large containers.

heirloom tomato plant seedlings

potted heirloom tomato seedlings

See how great they turned out??  FREE!!!  Be sure to save your heirloom tomato seeds and grow your own tomato plants!


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