How to Save Tomato Seeds: Easy Step-by-Step Guide




Saving tomato seeds is a great way to grow your own tomatoes year after year. It’s cost-effective and helps preserve unique tomato varieties. When you save seeds, you can ensure that your next crop is just as tasty and healthy as the current one.

This process is especially important for heirloom tomatoes. These are special varieties passed down through generations. By saving their seeds, you keep these unique plants alive.

Plus, saving seeds means you’ll have tomatoes perfectly suited to your garden’s conditions. It’s a fun and rewarding activity that connects you with nature and gardening traditions. In this guide, we’ll show you how to save tomato seeds step by step.

how to save tomato seeds

Choosing the Right Tomatoes for Seed Saving

Choosing the right tomatoes is the first step in saving seeds. Start by selecting healthy, ripe tomatoes from your garden. The best seeds come from the best tomatoes, so look for those that are free from diseases and pests.

It’s important to know the difference between heirloom and hybrid tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated, meaning their seeds will produce plants similar to the parent plant. These are the best for seed saving. Hybrid tomatoes, on the other hand, are crossbred for specific traits. Their seeds might not grow true to type, producing plants different from the parent.

When choosing tomatoes, pick the biggest and healthiest ones. These tomatoes likely have the best genetics for future plants. By carefully selecting your tomatoes, you ensure strong and productive plants next season.

Harvesting Tomato Seeds

Harvesting tomato seeds involves a few simple steps. First, cut the ripe tomato in half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds along with the gel that surrounds them. This gel contains chemicals that inhibit germination, so it needs to be removed.

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Next, place the seeds and gel in a jar. Add a small amount of water to the jar, enough to cover the seeds. Let this mixture sit for 2-3 days. This process is called fermentation. It helps remove the gel coating from the seeds. During fermentation, you might notice mold forming on the surface. This is normal and part of the process.

After 2-3 days, pour off the mold and water. Add fresh water to the jar, stir, and then pour off the water again. Repeat this until the seeds are clean and the water is clear. Once clean, spread the seeds out on a paper towel or a plate to dry. Make sure they are in a well-ventilated area and not in direct sunlight. It can take up to a week for the seeds to dry completely. Stir them occasionally to prevent clumping.

Properly dried seeds should feel hard and not sticky. Now, your seeds are ready for storage or planting next season.

Storing Tomato Seeds

Proper storage is key to keeping your tomato seeds viable. Once your seeds are completely dry, they need to be stored in a cool, dry place. Moisture and warmth can cause seeds to spoil or germinate prematurely.

Place the dried seeds in a small envelope or a paper packet. You can also use a small glass jar with a tight lid. It’s important to label your seeds with the tomato variety and the date you saved them. This helps you keep track of your seed collection.

Store the seeds in a cool location, such as a refrigerator or a cool basement. Avoid storing them in places with fluctuating temperatures, like a garage or an attic. Consistent, cool temperatures help maintain seed viability.

Keep the seeds away from direct light and humidity. You can add a silica gel packet or some dry rice to the container to absorb any excess moisture. Properly stored tomato seeds can last for several years, giving you healthy plants season after season.

By taking these steps, you’ll ensure that your seeds remain healthy and ready to plant when the time comes.

Testing Seed Viability

Testing the viability of your seeds before planting is important. It ensures that the seeds will germinate and grow into healthy plants. There are a couple of simple tests you can do at home.

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The first method is the water test. Take a few of your dried seeds and place them in a cup of water. Let them sit for about 15 minutes. Viable seeds will sink to the bottom, while non-viable seeds will float. Remove the floating seeds as they are unlikely to germinate.

Another method is the germination test. Place a few seeds on a damp paper towel. Fold the towel over the seeds and place it in a plastic bag to keep it moist. Keep the bag in a warm place, such as on top of the refrigerator. Check the seeds daily to make sure the towel stays damp.

After about a week, check to see if any seeds have sprouted. A good germination rate is when most of the seeds sprout. If only a few sprout, your seeds may not be viable, and it might be best to use fresh seeds.

By testing your seeds, you can be confident that you are planting seeds that will grow well. This helps ensure a successful and productive garden.

How Do I Know if My Tomatoes Are Ready for Seed Saving?

To know if your tomatoes are ready for seed saving, they should be fully ripe and healthy. The tomato should be soft and have a deep color, indicating it has reached its peak ripeness. Avoid tomatoes with any signs of disease or pests, as this can affect the quality of the seeds.

Can I Save Seeds from Hybrid Tomatoes?

It’s generally not recommended to save seeds from hybrid tomatoes. Hybrid tomatoes are crossbred for specific traits, and their seeds might not produce plants that are true to the parent. Instead, choose heirloom varieties for seed saving, as they will reliably produce plants similar to the parent.

What is the Fermentation Process and Why is it Necessary?

The fermentation process helps remove the gel coating from the seeds. This gel contains chemicals that prevent the seeds from germinating inside the tomato. Fermenting the seeds for 2-3 days helps break down this coating, making the seeds easier to clean and improving their germination rate.

How Long Can Tomato Seeds Be Stored?

Tomato seeds, when stored properly, can last for several years. To maintain their viability, keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Proper storage conditions are key to ensuring your seeds remain viable for future planting.

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What Are the Best Conditions for Storing Tomato Seeds?

The best conditions for storing tomato seeds are cool and dry. Use airtight containers like glass jars or paper envelopes, and keep them in a location with consistent temperatures, such as a refrigerator. Adding a silica gel packet or dry rice can help absorb any excess moisture.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Prevent Mold During the Fermentation Process?

To prevent mold during fermentation, stir the seeds once or twice a day. This helps break up any mold forming on the surface. Make sure to keep the container in a well-ventilated area. If mold forms, don’t worry. It’s normal and can be rinsed away after fermentation.

Can I Use Seeds from Store-Bought Tomatoes?

Using seeds from store-bought tomatoes is not recommended. These tomatoes are often hybrids, which means their seeds might not produce plants true to the parent. Additionally, store-bought tomatoes may be treated with chemicals that can affect seed viability. It’s best to use seeds from homegrown, heirloom tomatoes.

How Many Seeds Should I Save from Each Tomato?

It’s a good idea to save several seeds from each tomato. This ensures you have enough viable seeds for planting. Even if some seeds don’t germinate, having more seeds increases your chances of successful germination. Aim to save at least 10-20 seeds per tomato.

Do I Need Special Equipment to Save Tomato Seeds?

You don’t need special equipment to save tomato seeds. Basic items like a spoon, jar, water, and paper towels are enough. A small envelope or jar for storage is also helpful. You can use a label to keep track of the seed variety and the date you saved them.

What Are the Signs That My Stored Seeds Have Gone Bad?

Stored seeds can go bad if they are exposed to moisture or temperature changes. Signs of bad seeds include mold growth, a musty smell, or seeds that are soft and discolored. To avoid this, always store seeds in a cool, dry place and check them periodically. Properly stored seeds should remain hard and dry.


Saving tomato seeds is a rewarding and practical way to grow your own tomatoes year after year. By choosing the right tomatoes, harvesting and fermenting the seeds correctly, and storing them properly, you can ensure a successful garden season. Testing the viability of your seeds before planting can also help you avoid disappointments and maximize your garden’s productivity.

Whether you are preserving heirloom varieties or simply want to enjoy your favorite tomatoes again, seed saving connects you to a timeless gardening tradition. It helps you become more self-sufficient and promotes sustainable gardening practices.

By following these steps, you will not only save money but also create a personalized and resilient garden. Happy gardening and happy seed saving!

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Hi, I’m John.

John grew up on a farm where his family raised chickens, goats, rabbits, and grew a huge garden. John has a family of his own and gardens to know where his food comes from. Learn more..