Tuesday, September 15, 2009

tomatoes for tomorrow: seed saving

Tomato seeds are surrounded by a gelatinous coating that prevents the seeds from germinating inside the tomato, and must be removed before the seeds can be dried. Step 1: harvest your best and biggest tomatoes from your garden. Choose only the strongest plants that produce the greatest yield. Plants that withstood drought and disease are best. Slightly overripe tomatoes work best. Step 2: remove the seeds by gently squeezing out the seeds, including the gelatinous sac, into a jar. Step 3: ferment the seeds for approximately one week. This separates the seeds from the gel, and will destroy many seed-borne bacterial diseases. Place a paper towel, or other breathable cover over the jar and keep in an out-of-the-way place. Step 4: remove the mold with a spoon~add a little more water and stir vigourously to remove any traces of mold that might remain. Ladle out any stray pulp or debris. Step 5: the viable seeds will settle to the bottom of the jar. Spoon off any seeds that rise to the top. Sieve the mixture through a fine strainer or cheesecloth to collect the seeds.. If debris remains on the seeds, put them back in the jar, add a little more water to rinse and strain until only clean seeds remain. Step 6: dry the seeds by sprinkling the viable seeds into a bowl and allow them to air-dry. Over the next few days, stir them with your finger on occasion to ensure they dry completely. Store in an envelope and keep them in a cook, dry place until ready to plant next year. The tomatoes I am using are Early Girl from West Coast Seed Co. which are a hybrid tomato. It will be an interesting experiment to see if the plants produce normally i.e. "come true." (a good reason to use Heirloom varieties next time!) A farmer friend told me his tomatoes improve year to year by planting them in the same spot. The tomatoes come to "know" the soil they grow in, and improve in flavour and robustness over time.

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