Saving Tomato Seeds

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Photo from Adobe Stock/supamas

To say that “our family loves tomatoes” is an understatement. We love to can, dry, freeze them; eat them in sauces, on pasta, salads, and especially eat the fabulously simple tomato sandwich. Tomatoes make everything taste great. It is crazy think that these tasty creations were once considered poisonous by Europeans! Boy, did they ever miss out?

Each year we have been planting different heirloom varieties and having a family taste test to judge which variety is best. We have planted Chocolate Stripe, Brandywine, Bonnie’s Best, Paste tomatoes, and several cherry tomato varieties. The all-around favorite was Bonnie’s Best tomato. Bonnie’s Best Heirloom was created at the turn of the century in Union Springs, Alabama. Although Bonnie’s Best won, all of them have winning qualities. For instance, the Chocolate Stripe is incredibly beautiful adorned with green and red stripes vertically around the entire tomato and he Brandywine is succulently sweet and juicy. We plan on crossing a few generations of these tomato plants and experimenting with making our own variety.

Saving seeds from tomatoes is a little different than saving seeds from most vegetables. It is not hard at all, but a little more time consuming, but VERY worth it. I like to save seeds from at least 3 tomatoes from each varieties. Do the following steps separately for each variety. Our family of 9 needs about 100 tomato plants to have canned tomatoes throughout the winter, therefore we save at least 100 seeds.

  1. Harvest seeds from your favorite healthiest tomato plant.
  2. Cut the fruit in half. Squeeze the seeds into a clean container. Double the volume of liquid by adding equal parts pure water.
  3. Let the tomatoes ferment in a warm, faraway place (they stink!) for 3 days or until a scum form on the top. Add more water and stir.
  4. Pour water off of the top discarding the seeds that float. The good seeds will drop to the bottom of the container. Repeat until only good seeds remain.
  5. Transfer seeds into a strainer and dry with a towel. Place seeds on a clean plate until completely dry.
  6. Store seeds in a small glass jar in a cool, dark place.  

Note: Even though there has been controversy as to the category that tomatoes belong, whether fruit or vegetable, the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes are a vegetable for import purposes.

With nine mouths to feed on a daily basis, Alabama chef Stacy Lyn Harris keeps it simple, but doesn’t skimp on elegance. Her seven kids enjoy homegrown food, prepared beautifully and sustainably thanks to a few chickens in the back, a year-round kitchen garden, milk from a dairy farmer just outside of town, and locally-sourced free-range meats. Featuring full-color photos, Stacy Lyn’s Harvest Cookbook includes more than 100 field- and farm-to- table recipes that meet her three-part criteria: family friendly (easy, with simple ingredients), fresh, and tasty. “Beyond the Garden” delves into beekeeping and raising chickens for an amazing Honey Butter to pour over Cinnamon Pear Buns and your favorite Egg Salad Sandwiches with Refrigerator Pickles. Included are 15 “how-to” articles sprinkled throughout the book offer steps for cooking and eating sustainably in any setting ? including container gardening, saving seeds, preserving, foraging, composting, and more.

Reprinted with permission from Stacy Lyn’s Harvest Cookbook by Stacy Lyn Harris and published by Gray Forest Publishing, LLC, 2017.

Inspiration for edible alchemy.