‘Prevents germination!’ Key step to take when saving tomato seeds

Gardeners' World: Monty Don explains how to harvest tomatoes

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Tomatoes are annuals that are easily killed by frost and must be re-planted each year. Buying a brand new plug plant or packet of seeds is one way to do this, but it can also be done at no cost by “saving” seeds from your existing tomato crop. September is the perfect time to begin extracting seeds before your plant becomes unproductive, and it is incredibly easy to do. However, according to a gardening expert, it will only work if you folllow one crucial step before planting them.

How to save tomato seeds

Saving tomato seeds is incredibly easy, though unlike most plant seeds which need to be left to dry, tomato seeds need moisture to thrive.

While the process itself is very easy, you will need to prepare to harvest the seeds from individual fruits on your plant.

Speaking to Vertical Veg, Peter Brinch of Open Pollinated Seeds explained that the first step is to “mark” your chosen fruits.

To do this, find the largest tomatoes on the plant that look close to being fully ripe.

Mark the flesh with a pen and keep an eye on them to avoid missing out on their seeds.

According to Peter, the prime time to save seeds from tomatoes is when they look like they are “just about to drop off” the plant.

Larger varities such as Abraham Lincoln, Ailsa Craig and Alicante tomatoes can produce around 50-60 seeds per fruit. Smaller types such as gardeners delight and crimson crush contain fewer seeds.

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When this time arrives, pluck the tomatoes from the plant and start removing the seeds.

To do this, cut the fully mature fruits into halves and scoop out the core to remove the small, yellow seeds.

Lightly mush the contents of the bowl up using a fork.

Always avoid doing this too harshly to keep the seeds in tact.

Add roughly one cup of water to the bowl and a little pulp from the fruits to aid the fermentation process.

According to Peter Brinch of Open Pollinated Seeds, the liquid will begin to bubble when it is ready to be left alone.

Leave the seeds on a warm, sunny windowsill or greenhouse to ferment for around three days. Stir the mixture daily.

Peter explained that this step is key to successfully growing a new plant from existing tomato seeds.

He said: “The reason you have to ferment tomato seeds is because they have a gel coating which actually prevents germination. This coating is removed naturally by the fermentation process.”

The seeds will eventually sink to the bottom of the bowl, at which point you can “skim off” the debris from the surface and rinse the bowl until it’s just the seeds left.

The final step is to dry the seeds on a clean glass or china surface.

Peter advised agianst using any form of paper as the seeds will stick. Always leave plenty of space between them to prevent sticking.

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