24 March 2010

Seed Saving

It's that time of the year...saving and storing seed from my most productive veggies.  So far I've got corn, string beans ('Blue Lake Climbing', 'Purple King' and 'Rattle Snake' ), chives, and tomatoes set aside.  This will be my second or third season collecting from some of them and they have been very productive.  This year the beans have been less abundant than last with the rain we've had, but I'm not complaining!  I put more blood and bone on the veggie patch hours before the huge rain and hail storm in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago and I'm getting a second round of beans.  I'm going to have to net them though to keep the possums out!  It's the start of breeding season and they've recently started a full-scale invasion.  Think pub-crawl on a Saturday night.  Previously, we were living in harmony - I have been throwing anything with blossom end-rot developing (usually a few days after a big rain storm) up on the carport roof for them to eat and they only seemed to leave their little teeth marks in a few on the vine.  Now, they are eating any ripe tomatoes (well...eating a few bites and chucking the rest on the ground as they do) and all the young beans and flowers. Time for some netting.

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.

Have fun!

Next time...beekeeping with Bill.


  1. HI there Mel! I looove your blog- your borders and header are so so pretty!

  2. Thank you! They're from www.houseofthree.com. I wish I could take credit for them but I'm not that graphically clever.