The beautiful array of colorful heirloom tomatoes that entice summer farmer's market shoppers are perhaps even more dear because their season is brief. Tangy greens, candy-sweet pinks, earthy purples and citrus-scented yellows beguile our taste buds and delight our eyes. Limited garden space and busy schedules prevent many of us from growing all the varieties we love, but with the appropriate container, almost anyone can harvest enough tomatoes to satisfy personal desires. Plan now to grow a favorite heirloom tomato next year.
|Caldwell Co. gardener, Ralph Triplett, grows this heirloom with seed he saves each year|
Although any heirloom plant seed may be saved for future planting seasons, tomatoes are a delicious beginning lesson for seed saving newbies. Yes, it is possible to just smear tomato seeds on a paper towel, allow them to dry and then pull them from the paper to plant, but with a little time and patience, tomato seeds will be clean and ready to grow next spring. Before eating that perfect specimen you purchased at the farmer's market, follow these simple steps to save seeds and enjoy growing your own heirloom tomatoes, either in your garden or a container.
1. Select fruit that is fully ripe and free of blemishes.
2. Slice the bottom (blossom) end to expose seeds.
3. Squeeze seeds into a clear drinking glass or jar.
4. Add water to cover seeds and pulp and use a spoon or finger to agitate contents.
|Viable seeds sink to the bottom|
5. The following day, slowly pour off the pulpy water, taking care to leave seeds in the bottom of the container.
6. Add fresh water to cover seeds and agitate.
|Remove pulpy water and add clear until seeds are clean|
8. When water is clear, typically 1-3 days, leave a small amount of water with the seeds and pour contents onto a glass plate.
9. Place plate out of direct sunlight until water has evaporated and seeds are completely dry, about 3 days.
|A glass plate is best for drying seeds|
10. Use a knife or fingernail to carefully remove seeds from the plate and place them in a paper envelope. Label the contents, with the date, and store seeds in a dry environment. (An office desk or bedroom drawer is usually a good place to store seeds.)
As you join legions of heirloom seed savers, look forward to growing your own delicious fruit next year. How to enjoy that first ripe tomato will likely be a difficult decision. Sandwich? Pie? Salsa? Sauce? Give yourself permission to savor that first bite, alone, juice dripping from your chin, as you wait for the next ripe fruit.