Few things are as satisfying to the tomato fan as picking their own indigenous harvest of red, ripe, and delicious fruits.

The only thing more fulfilling is to have your own stash of heirloom seeds that will be kept safe and patiently waiting for your turn to dazzle and delight.

A close-up vertical image of a cluster of ripe red tomatoes on the vine, pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background. There is text printed in green and white at the top and bottom of the frame.

Saving your own tomato pips is a great way to preserve the varieties that have proven to be reliable performers in your garden.

And it also prevents disappointment in the next season when many varieties disappear from the shelves when they don't prove popular.

Plus, storing your own is both economical and convenient.

With your own private reserve, you no longer have to spend top dollars on organic stocks or wait for those packages to arrive in the late winter mail.

Now, let's get to the four methods of storing your own tomato seeds for planting.

Heirlooms and Hybrids

Before we get into the mechanisms of seed saving, it is important to note that only those from openly pollinated or Heirloom varieties will produce true to the original.

Pips collected from hybrid plants can be sterile.

And the seeds that come from hybrid strains that grow do not usually have the same characteristics as the mother plant – disease resistance, fruit size, vigor and amount of fruit can be different.

Only keep seeds from openly pollinated varieties to ensure your plants reproduce faithfully.

For more information on heirloom tomatoes, see this guide.

Basics of tomato seeds

Collecting tomato pips is easy. Simply cut the fruit in half and scoop the gel into a small container.

A horizontal close-up of a hand from the top of the frame holding a red ripe Solanum lycopersicum fruit that has been cut in half and a spoon scooping out the seeds. In the background a wooden surface and a metal knife.Photo by Lorna Kring.

However, there are a few more steps you need to take to ensure that your stock is suitable for propagation.

Choose fully ripe or even overripe fruits and harvest the most beautiful tomatoes from healthy, strong plants. Avoid fruits that are cracked or damaged, as split pods can be an entry point for bacteria.

Choosing the most attractive fruits from the most robust plants promotes the same properties in future generations.

You can prevent accidental cross-pollination by choosing fruits from plants that are of different cultivars or of different cultivars Hand pollinating your tomatoes.

The pips are hung in a gel bag in the fleshy fruit. The slime gel inhibits germination, so removing it from the gel bag is a prerequisite for effective germination.

A close horizontal image of tomato seeds on a white surface shows the gel sac surrounding them.Photo by Lorna Kring.

A second reason to remove the gel is because it can provide a welcome environment for seed and soil borne pathogens.

Pips can be saved from all types of openly pollinated tomato plants – cherry, Paste and slicer of both definite and indefinite varieties.

Four methods of storing tomato seeds

There are four methods of storing your own tomato seeds for planting.

The first method is to bury fresh seeds at the end of the growing season for germination the following spring. The next three are ways to process collected seeds for storage.

1st funeral

If you Compost your tomato plantsYou will know how quickly volunteers will spring up and show up in yours Compost heap after a hibernation.

Planned burials are an easy way to use natural cycles to propagate your favorite Solanum plants.

A vertical image of a small volunteer Solanum lycopersicum plant growing in soft focus in the garden with a rock in the background.Photo by Lorna Kring.

Left alone, fruits fall out of the plant at the end of the growing season, decompose and eventually rot.

When the fruit rots, it activates a natural fermentation process that destroys the gel sac. The pips then remain dormant in the ground during the winter months and can sprout the following spring if the conditions are right.

This method requires some planning ahead as you will need to prepare the tomato patch for the next year before burying the seeds.

In late summer, choose your planting location and change the soil as described in ours Guide to growing tomatoes.

Cut a healthy fruit into large slices, then "plant" it two inches deep in the ground. Add a two to four inches Layer of winter mulch exaggerated.

In the spring, after the soil and air temperatures have warmed and your average last frost date has passed, remove the mulch and gently loosen the soil surface.

If germination is successful, the seedlings will appear immediately in warm weather and can be left in place and diluted or transplanted to another location.

This is the least controlled method and you will have to wait for good weather, but it can still be a reliable way to produce a good supply of crops every year.

2. Dry fresh seeds

Many gardeners succeed by simply letting the pips air dry, gelatinize, and so on.

However, those that have not been fermented typically have a lower germination rate and a shorter shelf life of just one to two years. But for gardeners who just want enough product to start harvesting next year, this may be perfectly fine.

Cut a tomato in half and squeeze the gel into a fine sieve. Rub the seeds lightly while rinsing them under cold water to remove any excess residue.

A horizontal close-up of a colander that holds Solanum lycopersicum seeds separating them from the gel in a glass bowl.Photo by Lorna Kring.

Turn the colander over, pat the pips on a paper towel, and spread them to separate them.

Label the towel with the harvest date and the variety name.

Let them dry for seven to 14 days in a place with a temperature of about 70 ° F and without bright lights.

When dry, the pips will stick to the towel, which can be folded up for winter storage.

3. Rubbing

Rubbing the gel bag on a slightly abrasive surface such as a fine sieve or paper towel is an easy way to remove the gel from small amounts of material and results in a high germination rate.

A horizontal close-up image of Solanum lycopersicum seeds placed on a white surface.Photo by Lorna Kring.

Cut the fruit in half and squeeze the gel into a fine sieve. Rinse under cold water to remove any residue.

Rub each pip individually in the strainer or on a paper towel to remove the gel bag.

Rinse again and spread on a clean paper towel or sieve to dry.

Let dry for seven to 14 days in a well-ventilated place without bright light.

This is a little tedious, but works well if you only collect a few dozen seeds. For larger quantities, fermentation is a more efficient method.

4. Fermentation

The fermentation process is a simple and effective method of cleaning your broth that allows the collected gel, juice, and seeds to ferment for one to three days.

A close-up vertical image of a small jar with a green label on it Photo by Lorna Kring.

This is the most effective way to process large volumes and produce the cleanest material.

The old school methods fermented for several days so that an aromatic head of foam formed before sifting and drying.

However, recent studies have shown that longer fermentation times – more than three days – a negative impact on viability in terms of the germination rate and development of abnormal seedlings.

Use only one type of fruit at a time to avoid mixing up the broth. Thoroughly sanitize equipment between batches to prevent the spread of pathogens.

To ferment your seeds, rinse your tomatoes in cold water – discard any damaged, cracked, or signs of disease.

Slice the ripe fruit and squeeze the gel, juice, pulp and pips into a jar or container with a well-fitting lid.

A citrus reamer can help extract all of the components quickly.

A close horizontal image of a jar containing the flesh and seeds of Solanum lycopersicum, placed on a wooden surface.Photo by Lorna Kring.

Do not add water to the slurry, as dilution will slow down the fermentation process.

Label the jar with the name of the date and variety and place it in a room temperature (about 70 ° F) location without bright light.

For the next two days, stir the fermenting slurry once or twice a day, turning the pulp, and soaking it to prevent mold from forming.

After three days, decant and rinse. To do this, pour the slurry into a larger container and add three times the volume of water.

Swirl the mixture a few times and then let it settle. The viable pips fall to the bottom of the container.

Drain the water and leave the usable pips on the bottom. Repeat this process two or three times until all of the gel and residue is removed.

Pour the pips into a fine-mesh colander and rinse off any remaining gel or pulp with cold water.

Gently tap the strainer to remove any excess water. Then, twist the colander on a paper towel or colander and tap it to remove the seeds.

Spread the pips to separate them and label the colander or paper towel with the harvest date and variety name.

Let your collection dry in a well-ventilated place at room temperature for seven to 14 days, stirring occasionally with your fingers to prevent clumping.


Keep clean, dry pips in a paper envelope and keep them in a cool, dark, dry place for the winter.

A horizontal close-up image of three small envelopes labeled with the variety and the date set on a dark surface.Photo by Lorna Kring.

Label each envelope with the harvest date and the variety name.

Tomato pips can be refrigerated but are not required. And they shouldn't be frozen.

When properly stored, your grated or fermented broth will remain viable for four to six years.

Bounty for the next year

Storing your own tomato seeds is economical and smart. This is an extremely satisfactory investment of time, ensuring next year's plentiful harvest.

A close-up of a tomato plant growing in a container of unripe green and red ripe fruits, shown on a soft focus background.Photo by Lorna Kring.

If you want to save large quantities, choose the fermentation method. For smaller amounts, rubbing is a good alternative. And burying windows in the garden is always a fun adventure!

Don't forget to read our article about how to grow tomatoes from seeds and out Your garden journal start planning next year's harvest.

How do you collect and save your seeds? Let us know in the comments below!

And for more information about Grow tomatoesNext, read the following guides:

Photos by Lorna Kring © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. For more information, please see our Terms of Use. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Lorna Kring

As a writer, artist and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who was enthusiastic about organic and natural gardening methods from an early age. Nowadays their vegetable garden is smaller to make way for decorative landscapes full of colors, scents, art and hidden treasures. Maintaining and designing the ideal garden space is one of her favorite pastimes – especially when meeting family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!


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