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Homeschooling The Well Prepared Child: Save The Seeds- Tomatoes

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Save The Seeds- Tomatoes


     Tomatoes are the most versatile plants to grow for my family. We eat them on salads, in soups and stews, in salsa (we eat a lot of salsa) or just sliced up in a bowl. I long to be able to can them. Stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomatoes and green chilies, salsa, spaghetti sauce... Not only do homegrown tomatoes taste amazing, adding tomatoes to anything adds a higher nutritional content. Tomatoes even have medicinal benefits as well. 
       Although it was not OUR garden that blessed us with tomatoes, my awesome neighbor did! She had more than she could handle; while we had zip, zero, nada out of 3 tomato plants. What happened? I'm not sure. I suspect the soil we planted them in was not so great. I tried bunny poo, Epsom Salts, and other stuff. The cherry tomatoes did great, but they were in another section of the garden. Next year, tomato plants will be planted in our front yard, where the soil is best. We are hoping the new ones we planted late summer will produce something... But odds are, we are out of luck! Needless to say, we are making sure our next years crops will be high yield! 
     Previous attempts at saving tomato seeds consisted of saving stray seeds left on the cutting board. We placed them on napkins and let them air dry. They stuck to each other and the napkin. It was a huge nasty mess and I was not even sure how to store them. We wanted to try again, but were not sure what to do.  
     While the kids and I were making salsa one night, our tomatoes were extremely juicy and they made the salsa too runny. We squeezed the tomatoes out into a bowl before chopping them. So there was this bowl with all of these seeds. Seeds from the biggest, juiciest, yummiest tomatoes ever! They were begging to be saved! How, when they were covered in tomato goo? My first thought was tulle from my sewing shop. It is durable, has plenty of tiny holes, and would allow water to drain easily! My daughter ran to the sewing shop and cut us a big piece to use. She spent nearly 15 minutes trying to get the goo off from around the seeds. It worked but it was not as easy as we had hoped. We left them to dry inside of the tulle resting on a wash cloth. Within a couple of days, they were dry, and beautiful. The looked exactly like the seeds that come from the store. Success!
     It was the very next night that I saw a post on how to save tomato seeds using fermentation. It said the seeds separate from the goo after being allowed to sit in a little water for a day or 2. Of course we had to try it out! You can never have too many tomato seeds, right?
     My daughter worked on the tomatoes, while I worked the camera. She started by cutting the tomatoes in half and squeezing the pulp into an old plastic container. 

  Naturally, she had to sample some of the leftovers!

     We added water to the bowl and diced up the tomato remains for our salad at dinner. Waste not, want not! The tomato goo sat on the counter for 2 days. It was a little stinky already, and a little "GROSS!" to my girl, but she managed to get over it. She got out the strainer, laid the tulle inside and got to work rinsing the seeds. Took less than a minute! Amazing! 

Yes, that is a very old strainer. It was my mother's when I was a child. It's close to 40 years old!
We actually call it a colander, but people look at me funny when I call it that.  

     Next we laid the tulle pouch on a plate covered by a wash cloth. As it slowly dried, I played with the pouch, separating the seeds from each other. Finally, they were dry enough to take out of the tulle and be placed on a plate to finish drying. 
     The turned out quite pretty, don't you think? 
     The last step was to see if they would germinate. We placed one seed from our first attempt and one from our second attempt in a cup of soil in the bathroom window. Within a week, we had tiny little sprouts growing. They BOTH germinated. We will be using these plants as part of our 'Winter Garden' this year.
     I do have to say, fermenting the seeds made it a lot easier to get the goo off from around the seed. Both processes worked, however, I would highly recommend fermenting them if you are trying to save your own seed. I know it takes longer because it needs to sit in the water for a day or two, but it sure was less frustration trying to get them clean! 

Do you have any tips for seed preservation? Let us know. 
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