Summer may be over, but delicious tomatoes are still around. Don’t forget to save tomato seeds to grow next year! Here’s how:
Heirloom tomatoes are easy to grow at home and evolved to be infinitely tastier than store-bought ones, which are bred for long truck rides and shelf stability.
Tomato seeds are hardy, so if you can’t do all these steps, you can just smear a bunch of seeds into a paper towel and let them dry, and if you remove remaining gooey stuff or fruit, they will usually keep well. Following all the steps below helps keep the seeds mold-free and primed for sprouting later on.
1. Gather your favorite non-hybrid tomatoes. Non-hybrid, heirloom tomatoes (such as San Marzanos, Super Snow Whites, Black Cherries, and Blondkopchen, pictured here) have seeds that you can grow the same tomato from. Hybrid tomatoes (such Early Girls, Sun Golds and Sweet Millions) are cross-bred, and the seeds may not grow at all or won’t grow the same tomato.
2. Scoop or squeeze out the seeds into a cup and cover with water for about 2 days. This step helps separate the seeds from the fruit and primes them to sprout later on. You may notice that the water bath starts to ferment; this is a normal part of the priming process. I think it mimics what happens in nature, when ripe tomatoes fall into the ground and ferment, ready for sprouting the following year.
3. Strain and wash the seeds in a fine strainer to remove remaining bits of tomato fruit and juice. This helps keep the seeds mold-free while in storage.
4. Dry the seeds completely on a paper towel. Once totally dry, remove them without any remaining fruit goo or shards and store them in a packet or envelope.
Around the lunar new year in late January or February, I start my next round of tomato plants in seedling planters near a sunny kitchen window inside. I usually transplant the best sprouts up to quart or gallon pots before planting them in the ground around May. Using seeds from the tomatoes that grow from my own yard or from neighboring yards, I get a 100% sprout rate and amazingly tasty tomatoes that are acclimated to our conditions.
They are so delicious simply sliced and paired with fresh mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt.
And if you grow San Marzano plum tomatoes, you can make a ton of super-umami tomato sauce just by cooking them with some olive oil and salt, then using an immersion blender to cut up the chunks (we leave the skins in for the fiber and dense flavor). Freeze serving-sized (1-2 cups) amounts in freezer-safe containers, and you’ll have fresh-tasting homemade tomato sauce all year ’round.