Saving Seeds, or What? How? What? Three Excellent Questions

Let’s say you just had the most delicious little cherry tomato you’ve ever eaten, and you want to preserve that exact flavor for ever and ever and ever, but you’re not sure you’ll ever find that same variety again. Well… I’m here to tell you that you CAN.

If you have a garden (or you are interested in starting one), why not save the seeds from that little tomato, and plant it in the spring? And yes, you can do that!

Tomatoes are annuals, and that means that the plant reproduces (via seeds) and dies off in the same season. The seeds of the tomato are particularly easy to save, because they’re mature when the tomatoes are ripe (clever, eh?) Smash that tomato, and grab those seeds!!

Well, not quite that fast. There’s a sort of jelly around the seed, and I can tell you from experience, that if you don’t get it off those seeds, there’s a good chance that the seeds won’t germinate when you plant them in the spring. The generally-recommended method is a little gross, but easy: smoosh the pulp into a cup, and leave it out on the counter to ferment the goo, so that it separates from the seeds. See, I told you it was a little gross. But effective.

Once the seeds sink to the bottom of the cup, just pour off the goo and rinse (well) and dry (really well) the seeds. I generally lay out a sheet of paper towel and spread the seeds on it. If they end up sticking to the paper towel, I don’t bother trying to pry them off; just tear up the paper towel and store the seed as it is, stuck on the paper. Wax paper envelopes are good for keeping over winter; plain paper envelopes are fine, too. Plastic can lead to condensation, which isn’t ideal. Seed Savers’ Exchange has a great video on the process.

An even easier seed that you can save? Cilantro. I’ve been saving and replanting the same cilantro for many years (except for that year when someone pulled all the cilantro plants from the garden just as they were going to seed!)

If you’ve ever grown cilantro, you’ve probably noticed that at some point in its development, just as you’re starting to get used to having a cilantro plant in your garden, it gets all feathery and makes white flowers. You can curse the heat, or the plant’s short life, or you can just plant some more. Eventually, flowers turn to little green balls (shown at left), which dry into mature seeds!

Once they’re light brown and dry, snip off the whole flower head, and put them somewhere dry for about a week. Once you’re sure they’re really dry, you can gently separate seeds from stems, and store the seeds in a paper or wax paper envelope.

Saving seeds from a dill plant is exactly the same. Let the flowers die off and dry; you’ll see the seeds appear at the end of the flower head — one of the most gorgeous flowers you can grow like a weed around here, imho. Snip off the whole head, put them someplace dry for several days, then gently separate from stems.

These three plants tend to have seeds that are so hearty, my garden often saves them for me. Every year, we get tomato “volunteers” that I can’t bear to kill off, so I find a place to plant them and hope they’re a variety we really like. This year, all the volunteers have been either the super sweet orange cherry tomatoes, or the large and sweet red cherry, but regardless, it’s a win!

So right now, as we’re entering the final part of tomato season, think about saving some of those precious seeds! We’ll have a post in midwinter about starting them indoors, and how to transplant (and WHEN) into your garden or an outdoor container.