Category: Gardening

How to save tomato seeds

How to save tomato seeds

At about this time of year (or sooner) you may be thinking about what you’ll be growing next year, especially if one or more varieties of tomatoes were particularly successful. You can, of course, just buy new seeds every year, but if you are growing an unusual variety, you may want to consider saving seeds from the most vigorous plants. In our case, we grew some really successful varieties bred at the University of Florida, and they specifically suggested that we save their seeds, since they’d rather not be in the commercial seed business.

You can save seeds from any variety, but you will have the best results from ones that are open pollinated, meaning that the seeds will produce the same variety of plant as the parent. This may not be true of hybrid varieties and saving them is a bit riskier: you can’t be sure their progeny will be the same as the parent plant.

Some writers suggest only saving “heirloom” seeds, but this is probably a bit extreme. Heirloom really means that most growers have gone on to something better than that variety. Heirlooms may have lower yields and be less disease resistant. There are still plenty of great tomatoes you can save seeds from, such as Better Boy, for example.

You want to pick a good example of the fruit to take seeds from, but it needn’t be perfect. The tomato could be cracked or have a recent slug or fruit borer hole, as long as it hasn’t rotted.

The difficulty in saving tomato seeds is that they are enclosed in slippery little gelatinous sacs, that are hard to work with.  And that gel sac also includes a growth inhibitor, so the seeds won’t sprout within the plant. You need to remove that as well. We’ll show here how to overcome that problem below.

(Seeds do sometimes sprout inside a tomato, which is a kind of a surprise, but is usually harmless. It’s called ovipary.)

Saving the seeds

Cut the tomato in half and scoop out some seeds and the accompanying sacs. We used a melon baller, but a spoon would also work. Put the seeds in a fine strainer and rinse them with running water. We used the sprayer setting on our kitchen faucet to try to blast open the little sacs. This works to some extent, but we found that alone this wasn’t  enough. Those seeds neve germinated.

The next step, recommended by a number of writers is to use Oxyclean stain remover. Put some tap water into a glass or pitcher and add a tablespoon of Oxyclean powder. Stir it in, and then add the seeds, including the gel and any bits of tomato that have seeds attached.

Let them soak in the mixture of half an hour. During this time, the seeds will probably float to the surface.  Then pour the seeds and some of the solution through the strainer again and rinse the seeds using running water. Pick out any bits of tomato that end up in the strainer.

Finally, prepare a paper plate with a napkin or coffee filter on it to catch the seeds, and dump the seeds onto that tissue. Incidentally, seeds may stick to a napkin, and parchment paper is better, but of course, it doesn’t absorb much water. Label the plate with the tomato variety and let the seeds dry on the plate for 1-2 weeks.

After that, put the seeds in envelopes and label the envelopes. Put the seeds in a zip lock bag and keep them in a cool, dry place. You can even store them in the refrigerator or freezer according to the Florida research group.

Testing the seeds

You might want to test the seeds to make sure they will germinate. To do this, put two or three seeds in a damp paper towel, and enclose it in a zip lock bag. The seeds will sprout in around 10 days.

Seeds sprouting

Then you know you are ready for the next season!

Easy gazpacho, two ways

Easy gazpacho, two ways

There isn’t much to making gazpacho: it’s a cold soup made from tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and anything else in your garden you might want to try.  Now that there are really flavorful tomatoes at peak ripeness, you can chop up some gazpacho in your blender just a few minutes. If you don’t have a garden bursting with tomatoes, try getting some from a farm stand or farmer’s market to get the best flavor. Supermarket tomatoes are bred for traveling ability, not flavor, so you probably want to avoid those.

The first tomatoes that come in most gardens are the cherry-sized ones, and those are usually the sweetest as well. Use those along with a few bigger tomatoes for the best result.

We call for about 2 lb of tomatoes, but depending on the number of guests, you can increase or decrease this. Just make sure you fill your blender with all the veggies. You can always make more, and combine them in a bowl to make sure the flavors are uniform.

Cherry tomatoes on the vine

  • 2 lb tomatoes, quartered. (Leave the cherry-sized whole)
  • 1-2 cucumbers, depending on size, peeled
  • ½ bell pepper (red, orange or green) cut up
  • 1 clove garlic, smushed to remove the skin
  • 2 Tb red wine vinegar or sherry wine vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, extra for garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  1. Put all the above ingredients into a blender and blitz until uniform. This should give you a nice, chunky soup, which will still have bits of peel and seeds among the chunks.
  2. To make a smoother gazpacho, run the soup through a food mill to filter out the seeds and skins. The flavor will be the same, but the mouth feel will be less chunky.
Food mill

Chunky or smooth

Serving

Browning croutons

Chill the soup for an hour or so in the blender or in a couple of quart mason jars.

  • ½ loaf French or other country bread, cut into croutons
  • Basil, cut into strips (uses scissors or a knife)
  • More extra virgin olive oil
  1. Put a little regular olive oil into a cast iron pan and brown the croutons briefly.
  2. Pour the soup into serving bowls, and add a few toasted croutons to each bowl, and garnish with a few strips of basil and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil.

Serve at once.

Raised garden beds– an evaluation

Raised garden beds– an evaluation

We started raised bed gardening in 2014 when we realized that they would keep the soil from washing away. We bought cedar beds made by Greene’s Fence both from Home Depot and Amazon, and over several years worked up to about 23 4×4 beds. We had some topsoil delivered and added our compost and some commercial compost as we built them up.

Greene’ Fence raised beds, 1 year old and 2 years old.

But by the third year, the cedar beds started to deteriorate and we began replacing the beds about every three years. Needless to say, this can get expensive. In the above picture, you can see the one year old frame in the foreground and a two-year old frame behind it, already starting to fall apart.

Last year we decided we’d had enough, and we ordered 4 vinyl 4×4 beds to replace four of our rotting beds. The original ones were made by New England Arbors. These were very sturdy and still look great today. However, they don’t seem to be available any more.

New England Arbors– dog not included

This January we ordered some from Amazon made by Kdgarden which were pretty similar, but the Chinese company (Qingdao Kdgarden) that makes them seems to have dropped them from their product line. Or maybe they fell into the Suez?

Barton and Kdgarden match each other

We looked at ones from Home Depot made by Vigoro, but when we tried to assemble them, we discovered that they snapped together without any strong vinyl vertical tracks in the support poles and they came apart very easily. They also had some tiny little corner locks that were very hard to insert and didn’t stay together either, so we returned them to Home Depot.

The final order through Amazon was for frames made by Barton. These were identical to those from Kdgarden and the panels and posts were interchangeable. These are what we have switched to. They are very strong and fairly nice looking.  However, they don’t exactly match the panels and posts from New England Arbors so we will have to use our table saw to cut a groove in the other side of one of the new Barton boards to lock into the posts from NE Arbor. 

Joints in Barton (left) and NE Arbors (right)

All of the Barton frames come with glue to secure them. We haven’t bothered yet but may use it on the ones of separate ancestries. These vinyl frames cost about twice what we paid for the original Greene’s Fence cedar frames (they are about $80 each) but considering the cost of replacing the cedar frames several times this is a far better deal. Thankfully, they are still available.