Here are instructions for saving tomato seeds,
modified from Michel & Jude Fanton's fantastic book The Seed Savers' Handbook. The photos below are of Black Russian tomatoes from my garden. It's an incredibly sweet heirloom variety that also looks beautful sliced in a salad.
1. Let the tomato over-ripen on the vine. DO NOT use any rotting, diseased or damaged fruit for this. Sacrifice a couple of your best so you get good, healthy seeds! Label the seeds from the beginning with the date collected so you know what you have saved.
NOTE: Remember that unless you have separated different types of the same vegetable (beans, tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, etc.) there probably will be some cross-pollination and gene-swapping taking place in your garden. I don't mind this and find it just makes it more interesting seeing what comes up in the spring. My 'Purple King' beans probably crossed with the 'Blue Lake Climing' last year since they are shorter and fatter. I think my 'Black Russian' tomatoes have a bit of 'Green Zebra' in them. They are still yummy! I figure if I want the true heirloom variety again, I'll buy a new supply of seed. I tend to try a few new cultivars every season. Some women buy shoes...I buy interesting seeds!
2. Scoop out the seed and pulp (a grapefruit spoon is perfect for this if you've got one) and place in a clean jar. Leave for 2-3 days. The pulp will start to ferment and develop a good bacteria that will naturally clean the seeds. Commercial seed companies use hydrochloric acid to clean tomato seeds. Yuck!
3. Prepare yourself for the smell before you open the jar! Rinse any remaining pulp off the seeds in a sieve or strainer and place the cleaned seeds on baking paper. Old pie tins or baking sheets are great to use for drying seed.
4. After a few hours or the next day, rub the seeds to remove any remaining dried pulp and separate seeds that are stuck together. Let the seeds dry for a few weeks, then place in a small clear jar labelled with the plant name and the date collected and close the lid tightly. Different plants have different 'use by' dates for their seed. Tomatoes will last for 3-5 years if kept dry and pest-free. A good book like the one I mentioned above is an invaluable resource if you want to save seed from your garden.
Next time...beekeeping with Bill.