Easy peasy seed saving - tomatoes

In this series, we discuss how to save your own organic seeds. Once you dip into the seed saving world, you realise how satisfying and easy it can be. Tomatoes, peas and French beans, for instance, are a great place to start. Not only are you keeping yourself in organic produce, year on year - you're also saving money!

We also look at some of the wonderful heritage varieties available. If taste and individuality are your aims, then why not support our Heritage Seed Library? We conserve many varieties that are no longer widely available. Often they are rejected as 'uncommercial'. Many are local, such as the Stafford broad bean, Stoke lettuce and English Winter Leamington cauliflower.

Year on year, HSL staff continue the growing cycle of seed to plant, harvest to seed, ensuring that these old heritage varieties don't disappear.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Heritage Seed Library, it costs just an additional £1.50 a month, on top of your Garden Organic membership. In doing so, you will be supporting our vital work of maintaining rare heritage plants - and you can choose up to 6 packets of seed free each year!

How easy is it to save seeds?

With some vegetables, such as tomatoes and peas, it is very simple and you save seeds from ripened fruit each year.

With others, such as runner beans and pumpkins, you need to be a bit careful to prevent any cross-pollination from other plants to keep your own variety pure. If, for instance, your runner bean flower is pollinated by a bee from your neighbour’s plants (which are a different type of runner bean) you cannot predict what sort of bean you will grow next year. It could be a mix of the two. To help you, read more in our Seed Saving Guidelines.

So, let’s start with the easy peasy seed savers:

Tomato Solanum lycopersicum

Tomato harvesting is at full swing throughout August and September. Perfect time to pick your own tasty varieties, and then save the seed.

Harvesting

The seeds are fully mature once the tomatoes are ripe. Allow the fruits to ripen on the plant, if possible, or bring indoors and ripen them e.g. in a box or drawer with ripe apples or bananas.

Next steps ….

Tomato seeds need to be washed before you can store them. First, scoop them out of the fruit, and then rinse in a sieve under cold running water, rubbing the seeds against the sieve to remove the sticky gel coating. Spread the seeds on a paper towel or piece of kitchen paper and leave to dry.

When completely dry, fold up the paper, label it, and store somewhere cool and dry. In the Spring, pop the paper with the seeds attached on to moist compost in a seed tray. Water well to start your plants.

See here for how to grow tomatoes in a greenhouse, or outdoors.

Heritage Varieties

These beauties are available exclusively to HSL members. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Heritage Seed Library, it costs just an additional £1.50 a month, on top of your Garden Organic membership.

Darby Striped Yellow/Green

darby striped

The fruit of this variety starts off with yellow and green stripes but turn a lovely bright orange around a week before they are ready to pick. The flavour is described as "excellent", with one enthusiastic grower writing "FANTASTIC, good sized fruits with wonderful flavour".

Atkins’ Stuffing

atkins stuffing

Donor Joe Atkins spotted this unusual tomato being sold as a one-off in a greengrocer’s in his native Swindon several years ago, and sent it to us as a stuffing tomato. It is hollow, but with sweet, succulent flesh. This tomato is a reliable cropper that performs well outdoors or under glass, but will need support.

Cyril’s Choice

cyrils choice

The Cyril in question lived in Essex and grew his tomato every year until he passed away in 1984. His sisters carried on the tradition, however, they thought that all was lost in 1993 when their saved seed was not properly dried. Happily a search in 1995 revealed two seeds tucked away at the bottom of their seed tin. This tomato is an early variety producing red fruits with a tangy flavour, perfect for cooking or salads.

Jersey Sunrise

jersey sunrise

An old variety which used to be grown all over Jersey. Can be grown indoors and out. They are described as “mouth-wateringly juicy (like mini melons) with distinctive flavour. Also excellent for stews and stir fries (especially sweet and sour) as such a tasty, prolific cropper – you’ll have trouble keeping up!”

Did you know …..

  • Botanically, a tomato is a fruit, ie a berry, with an ovary and seeds from a flowering plant. But by law it was classified as a vegetable in the US.
  • Lycopene, the red colouring pigment, has been variously associated with prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and cataracts. It is better absorbed from cooked tomato products than in fresh fruits.
  • Tomato flavour depends mostly on sugars and the acidity of the gel around the seeds. Smaller tomatoes have less water content, and therefore more flavour. Supermarket fruits are bred for their longevity – NOT for flavour.