Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Saving the Past, Securing the Future

Yellow, cherry tomatoes not yet ripe.

In my garden, the future is now.  Literally, right now.
The fruit growing in my garden will provide enough seeds for my future garden.
And, maybe yours, too.

Last summer, my Mom's friend gave her a handful of yellow, cherry tomatoes that she swiped from a well-known grower in Indiana.  We'll just say that they might have been harvested swiftly and without the grower's knowledge.  Apparently, they have some pedigree and even though we didn't know exactly what they were, some research confirmed that they were, indeed, heirloom and desirable. 

Upon receiving them, my Mom called me and asked me how to preserve their future.  I tried to tell her how to save the seeds, but she felt more comfortable shipping them to me.  And, so, one day later, a tiny box arrived on my doorstep with the future safely tucked inside.  It had arrived completely intact.  The agreement was that I would harvest and save the seeds.  My reward would be in delicious, juicy tomato flesh as I got to eat all four tiny fruits.  In return, I would not only share the seeds, but I would grow transplants for my Mom and her friend.  That way, we would all eat the fruit.  Easy.  In the photo above, you see the result of that agreement - this year's tomato plant sown from last year's saved seeds, dripping with the future. 

Here's how to save tomato seeds:

A yellow, cherry tomato ripe, full of seeds and ready to eat.

First step, cut through the tomato close to the top but far enough down that you expose the seeds.

The seeds are secure in that gel.

Remove the seeds, gel and all, from the tomato and put them into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl.  Here, I have a very small strainer set inside a ramekin.
Add water to cover the seeds.  In a few days, the seeds will separate from the gel and reveal themselves.  When that happens, you will want to drain them on a coffee filter, paper plate, paper towel, etc.  When they are dry, place them in a paper envelope for storage.  Done!

You may be asking yourself why I go to the trouble of saving seeds when you can easily buy seeds.  Well, for starters, it's cheaper.  In some cases, like that of the yellow, cherry tomato, it's even free.  I happen to be a variety junkie and that can get expensive.  The other reason is that the seeds are readily available until they aren't.  And, then, it's too late.  This happened with my favorite beans.  Up until very recently, they had been out of stock to the public for nearly a year.  But, it was a non-issue for me.  I had been saving those seeds for two years and had plenty for this year's garden and thankfully, I have plenty for next year's, too.

I love securing the future by saving the seeds of the past.  And, while it does take a little thought and a few extra minutes, it is not complicated.  So, give it a try!  After all, you never know what the future holds!


  1. Theft and intrigue- delicious! :)

    Also, that is the world's tiniest strainer!

  2. I love that yours are still green, because mine are too and I'm becoming very, very impatient!

  3. Reagan, you are so funny! It IS the world's tiniest strainer. :-)

    KT, we have tomatoes of all colors and stages of ripeness around here. But, they never make it to ripe on the plant because I am too impatient and I love to pluck them the second they start to turn for fear that I will lose them to the critters. I know the only critters who will bother them while ripening on my windowsill are Ben and I. :-)

  4. Also, when you save your own seeds, the varieties actually adapt to your microclimate after about three years of seed-saving. This is then something you absolutely cannot buy.

  5. I have a story about little strainers...

    They adapt after three years? Cool.