I’ve been thinking a lot about biodiversity lately. You know, the diversity of plant and animal life on Earth. This sounds like one of those deep hippie dippy areas, but really the benefits of maintaining a biologically varied ecosystem are no different than investing in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds.
Simply, a diverse portfolio reduces the risk of a single investment being wiped out by market fluctuations while a diverse ecosystem can survive in the face of unexpected disease epidemics and extreme weather fluctuations. You don’t want your retirement funds to become extinct and you don’t want your food supply to be wiped out either.
So what about heirloom tomatoes and seeds? Since I’m all about finding ways to save money while being an environmental steward, I’ve discovered that saving heirloom seeds meets both the money and environmental mark.
A heirloom tomato (called a heritage tomato in the UK) is an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) cultivated variety of tomato that can be grown from seed. Conventional hybrid tomatoes bought from your local grocery store, however, cannot be grown from the seeds you would save from them.
I figure, what’s the point of paying for and supporting parts of the food chain that are not self sustainable? Besides, heirloom tomatoes are very tasty fruits that are easy to grow and it’s free to save the seeds for the next growing season.
Choosing the Right Heirloom Tomato Seeds
When saving heirloom tomato seeds there are three simple rules you should follow for success!
1. Save seeds from only open-pollinated heirloom varieties.
Saving heirloom tomato seeds is easy, but you must choose seeds from only open-pollinated varieties. Here are a few heirloom tomato seeds I have successfully saved!
- Black Krim
- Cherokee Purple
- And many more!
2. Save seeds from fully ripe heirloom tomatoes.
Do yourself a solid and save your seeds from fully ripe, but not over-ripe heirloom tomatoes.
I know the green tomatoes need love too, but the best seeds for growing are from the fully ripe heirloom tomato fruits.
3. Save seeds from your best looking heirloom tomatoes.
There’s a reason the ladies all love Brad Pitt right? It’s ’cause he’s one hot specimen of a man. Well, you want to use the same logic when saving seeds — choose seeds from the best looking and tasting plants to ensure you grow the best tomatoes.
How to Save Your Heirloom Tomato Seeds
All you need is a sharp knife, a container, some water, a paper plate, and a few heirloom tomatoes to get going on this fun frugal task. Ready?
1. Choose a ripe, gorgeous heirloom tomato. You want to breed only the best.
2. Using a knife, slice across the equator of the tomato. Cutting the tomato in this way easily exposes the seeds.
3. Squeeze the seeds, gel, and juice out into a small container. No need to separate the seeds at this point.
4. Cover the seeds and tomato guts with an inch of water. The water helps to grow mold and separates the seeds from the gel.
5. Label your container so you don’t forget the tomato variety. It’s hard to tell seeds apart without labels.
6. Put the contrainer in an out of sight spot and wait for mold to grow. Unless you enjoy watching mold grow.
7. After 3 to 5 days white mold will grow on the surface of the tomato water. This mold dissolves the gel coating from the seeds. When you see mold (don’t scream), just plug your nose and drain the water. Yes, it’s a little stinky. Be sure to keep only the seeds at the bottom of the container and discard all floating seeds. The floaters will not germinate.
8. Use a fine mesh strainer to rinse the remaining gel from your seeds. Don’t be afraid to use your hands to get those seeds clean.
9. Place your rinsed seeds in a single layer on a paper plate. The paper plate wicks the water away and will not stick to the seeds. The idea is to dry the seeds fast and prevent them from going moldy. Be sure to label your plate. Set the seeds aside for a few days until fully dry.
10. Place your dry heirloom seeds into a labelled baggie. Store in a cool, dry place. Heirloom tomato seeds keep well and germinate for years if stored correctly. I keep mine in the refrigerator. Just don’t let your spouse use them in a salad.
So there you have it! Saving heirloom tomato seeds is a simple way to stash some cash, get involved with biodiversity, and eat healthfully for less.
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Your Thoughts: Got any tips for saving seeds? Do you save your heirloom tomato seeds? Share your seedy skills!