Expert Guide on How to Save Seeds from Tomatoes – Get Started Today!

Welcome to our expert guide on how to save seeds from tomatoes! Whether you’re an experienced gardener looking to preserve your favorite tomato varieties or a beginner searching for sustainable gardening practices, seed-saving is a valuable skill to learn. In this article, we will provide you with all the information you need to successfully save tomato seeds, from selecting the right tomatoes to storing them for longevity. So let’s get started and discover the benefits of how to save seeds from tomatoes!

Why Save Seeds from Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a popular and versatile crop that can be grown in a range of conditions and climates. They are commonly grown from seed, but did you know that saving seeds from your own plants can have a range of benefits?

“Saving tomato seeds is like creating a time capsule of your garden. You can preserve the traits of your favorite varieties and pass them down through generations of plants.”

Firstly, saving seeds can help you preserve desirable traits in the tomatoes you grow. By selecting seeds from the plants that perform best in your garden, you can create a collection of plants that are well-suited to your unique growing conditions.

Secondly, saving seeds can save you money in the long run. Rather than purchasing seeds each year, you can use the seeds you’ve saved for future planting.

Finally, seed-saving can promote sustainability in your gardening practices. By using and reusing your own seeds, you reduce reliance on commercially-produced seeds, which can be expensive and potentially harmful to the environment.

Selecting the Right Tomatoes for Seed Saving

Choosing the right tomatoes for seed saving is crucial to ensure a successful harvest of healthy, disease-resistant plants. Here are some tips on how to select the best tomatoes for seed saving:

  1. Choose the right variety: Opt for open-pollinated or heirloom varieties, as they tend to produce more stable and predictable offspring. Avoid hybrid varieties, as their seeds may not produce the same traits as the parent plant.
  2. Harvest ripe tomatoes: Only save seeds from fully mature and ripe tomatoes, as they are more likely to produce viable seeds. Immature or overripe fruits may not yield healthy seeds.
  3. Select disease-resistant tomatoes: Look for tomatoes that are resistant to common diseases in your area, such as blight or wilt. This can help ensure that your plants thrive and produce bountiful crops.

By considering these factors, you can increase the likelihood of success when saving tomato seeds and growing healthy plants.

Seed Extraction Techniques

Extracting tomato seeds can be a messy process, but with the right technique, it can be done easily and efficiently. There are a few different methods of seed extraction, including fermentation, dry processing, and hand extraction.


This method involves allowing the seeds to ferment for a few days in a jar, which breaks down the gelatinous coating around the seeds. To do this, simply cut the tomato and squeeze the seeds and pulp into a jar. Add a little water, cover the jar with a piece of cloth or paper towel, and leave it in a warm place for 2-4 days. The mixture will start to ferment and produce a layer of mold on top. Once the fermentation is complete, add water to the jar and stir the mixture. The good seeds will sink to the bottom, while the bad seeds and debris will float to the top. Carefully pour off the top layer and strain the good seeds. Rinse them well and dry them thoroughly before storing.

Dry Processing

This method involves extracting the seeds from the tomato and allowing them to dry on a paper towel or screen. To do this, cut the tomato and squeeze the seeds and pulp into a bowl. Separate the seeds from the pulp and spread them out on a paper towel or screen. Allow them to dry completely, which can take anywhere from a few days to a week. Once they are dry, remove any debris and store them in a labeled envelope or container.

Hand Extraction

This method involves simply squeezing the seeds from the tomato by hand. To do this, cut the tomato in half and gently squeeze out the seeds and pulp into a bowl. Separate the seeds from the pulp and debris, rinse them well, and dry them thoroughly before storing.

Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to ensure that your seeds are completely dry before storing them to prevent mold and ensure longevity.

Seed Cleaning and Drying

After extracting the seeds from your tomatoes, it’s important to clean and dry them properly before storing to ensure their longevity. The process of cleaning involves separating the seeds from any attached tomato flesh and debris.

To clean the seeds, you can use a process called wet fermentation. Place the seeds in a glass jar and add some water, then cover the jar loosely with a lid or cloth. Leave the jar in a warm place for a few days, stirring it occasionally. The mixture will become frothy and a layer of mold will form on top. This fermentation process helps remove any remaining tomato flesh and breaks down any pathogens on the seeds.

After fermentation, pour the contents of the jar through a fine-mesh strainer and rinse the seeds thoroughly under running water. Dry the seeds by spreading them out on a paper towel or a screen. Avoid using newspapers or paper bags for drying, as the ink and chemicals can transfer onto the seeds.

Ensure that the seeds are completely dry before storing them to prevent mold growth. You can test the seeds for moisture by placing a few in a sealed container with a slice of bread. If the bread becomes soft, the seeds contain too much moisture and need further drying. If the bread stays dry, the seeds are ready for storage.

Storing Tomato Seeds for Longevity

Once you have extracted and cleaned your tomato seeds, you want to ensure that they remain viable for future planting. The key to longevity is proper storage.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Temperature: Store your seeds in a cool, dry place. Room temperature is usually fine, but avoid storing them in hot or humid areas such as the attic or bathroom.
  • Humidity: Moisture can cause seeds to mold or germinate prematurely. Be sure to store your seeds in an airtight container with a desiccant packet (such as silica gel) to absorb any excess moisture.
  • Lifespan: Tomato seeds can remain viable for several years if stored properly. However, their germination rate decreases over time. To maximize the chances of successful germination, it’s best to use seeds within 2-3 years.

When choosing a container for storage, opt for something sturdy and airtight. Glass jars with tight-fitting lids or plastic containers with seals work well. Be sure to label your container with the tomato variety and the date it was stored.

Seed-Saving Techniques for Long-Term Storage

There are a few seed-saving techniques that can improve the longevity of your tomato seeds:

Technique Description
Freezing: Freezing can extend the lifespan of tomato seeds by several years. Before freezing, ensure that seeds are completely dry and store them in an airtight container. Allow the container to come to room temperature before opening to avoid moisture accumulation.
Vacuum sealing: Sealing seeds in a vacuum-sealed container removes oxygen, which can prolong their lifespan. Follow the same guidelines for drying and storing seeds as above.

Keep in mind that these techniques are not necessary for short-term storage but may be useful if you are looking to preserve seeds for several years.

Labeling and Organizing Your Tomato Seed Collection

One of the most important steps in saving tomato seeds is keeping them properly labeled and organized. With many different varieties of tomatoes available, it can be easy to mix up your seeds and end up planting the wrong ones.

A simple and effective way to label your tomato seeds is to use small envelopes or plastic bags. Label each bag with the variety of tomato, the date the seeds were collected, and any other relevant information that may help you identify and differentiate them.

If you have a larger seed collection, consider creating a spreadsheet or database to keep track of your seeds. This will make it easier to search and sort your seeds by variety, date, and other criteria.

It’s also important to store your labeled seed packets in a cool, dry place where they won’t be exposed to moisture or sunlight. A dark closet or cabinet is an ideal location.

By taking the time to organize and label your tomato seed collection, you’ll be able to easily find the seeds you need for your next planting season and ensure that you’re always using the right varieties.

Testing Seed Viability

Before planting your saved tomato seeds, it is important to test their viability to ensure successful germination. Testing the seeds will also help you save time and resources that would otherwise be wasted on planting dead seeds.

Germination Test

The most common method to test seed viability is the germination test. Start by placing ten seeds on a damp paper towel and place them in a warm and dark location with consistent moisture levels.

Check the seeds regularly for the next few days and record the number of seeds that germinate. If 8 or more seeds germinate, your seeds are viable. However, if less than 8 seeds germinate, it may be best to get fresh seeds.

Tetrazolium Test

In cases where you have small or irregular-shaped seeds, you can use the tetrazolium test. This test involves cutting the seed and applying a tetrazolium solution to it. Viable seeds will turn red, while dead seeds will turn brown.

If you choose to use this test, it is important to follow instructions carefully and dispose of the tetrazolium solution responsibly.

Remember to test your tomato seeds for viability before planting them to ensure successful germination and healthy plants.

Troubleshooting Common Seed Saving Issues

Despite your best efforts, you may encounter some challenges when saving tomato seeds. Here are some common issues and how to address them:


Tomatoes are self-pollinating, but they can also be cross-pollinated by insects or wind. To prevent cross-pollination, separate tomato varieties by at least 10-20 feet or use physical barriers such as netting. Alternatively, you can hand-pollinate tomato flowers using a small brush or q-tip.

Seed-Borne Diseases

Tomato seeds can carry diseases such as bacterial canker or late blight. To avoid spreading diseases, only save seeds from healthy, disease-free plants. Disinfect the seeds by soaking them for 10-15 minutes in a 10% bleach solution or a solution of one part vinegar and three parts water.

Genetic Diversity

Repeatedly saving seeds from the same plant can result in reduced genetic diversity and weakened plants. To maintain genetic diversity, save seeds from at least 6-10 plants of the same variety.

By anticipating and addressing these common issues, you can improve your chances of a successful seed-saving experience and healthy tomato plants.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions about saving seeds from tomatoes:

  1. Can any tomato variety be used for seed saving?

    While technically any tomato variety can be used for seed saving, it is recommended to use open-pollinated or heirloom varieties for the best results. Avoid hybrid tomatoes, as their seeds may not be reliable for future planting.

  2. What is the best way to extract tomato seeds?

    The best way to extract tomato seeds is through fermentation, where the seeds are allowed to ferment in their own juices before being rinsed and dried. This method helps to remove any germination inhibitors and ensures a higher seed viability rate.

  3. How long can tomato seeds be stored?

    When stored under the right conditions, tomato seeds can remain viable for up to 5-10 years. However, it’s recommended to use seeds within 2-3 years for the best germination rates.

  4. Do tomato seeds need to be cleaned before storage?

    Yes, it is important to clean tomato seeds before storing them to prevent the growth of mold and other harmful pathogens. This can be done by rinsing the seeds thoroughly and allowing them to air dry.

  5. What do I do if my saved tomato seeds don’t germinate?

    If your saved tomato seeds fail to germinate, try testing their viability using the water test method. If the seeds sink to the bottom of a glass of water, they are likely viable and can be planted. If the seeds float to the top, they are likely not viable and should be discarded.


Congratulations! You now have a comprehensive understanding of how to save seeds from tomatoes. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure a successful seed saving experience and enjoy the benefits of a sustainable and cost-effective gardening practice.

Remember to carefully select the right tomatoes for seed saving, extract and clean the seeds properly, and store them under appropriate conditions for longevity. Label and organize your seed collection for easy identification and testing, and troubleshoot any common issues that may arise during the process.

We hope this guide has been helpful in encouraging you to start saving seeds from tomatoes. Enjoy the satisfaction of growing your own plants from seed, preserving desirable traits, and contributing to a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle.