Collecting your own seeds from the tomatoes you bought at the market is easy and simple.
Growing your OWN tomatoes from these seeds is just as easy – you just need the right tomatoes. Following the guidelines below, you could be growing your own tomato plants to eat in as little as 8 weeks.
What Are The Best Tomatoes To Collect Seeds From?
Tomatoes are very easy plants to grow from any seeds at all – but just like any plant (or pet) you need to make sure you have the right habitat for it for it to flourish in.
Quite often tomatoes you buy at a market are from a totally different growing zone – so that you can buy the biggest and best tomatoes all year round.
You will be amazed sometimes how you can’t buy locally-grown tomatoes even when it is your own growing season?
So, if you are buying at any ‘local market’ you need to be really sure that they were actually grown locally (not just sold by a local farm store).
Alternatively, simply look up the variety they are selling before buying – and check it will suit your plot. If it is a variety that will grow in your location – then yes – it will grow for sure.
What Are F1 Hybrids – And Why All The Fuss?
One other thing to check if you can (although not essential for a beginner) is whether they are a straight variety (breed true over and over like a heritage variety) or whether they are an F1 hybrid.
An F1 hybrid is where 2 different varieties are crossed together for the ‘first’ generation (the F1 part). Quite often this ‘mixing’ can produce an even better tomato than the two originals alone. Great if you are buying your tomato seeds each year from a supplier – not so great if you are collecting seeds yourself.
Hybrids have a flaw. Because they are half of one thing and half of another, if you collect the seeds from them – you can’t actually be sure that you will even grow the same tomatoes.
This is because – second time around – they might recombine in a less than the original 50/50 way – so say 28/72. As a crazy example of this; some hybrid yellow cherry tomato seeds will actually produce red tomatoes if you keep re-growing the seeds you collect each season. Not great if you only wanted yellow tomatoes?
Collecting Seeds & Germinating Your Plants
Once you have your tomatoes – you need to make ready the seeds. You don’t have to wait until they are over-ripe or anything. As long as the tomatoes your bought home are juicy and ready-to-eat – the seeds will be perfect to grow on into plants. But first – a few things to consider:
Is it their season right now – or will you have to wait? This matters as it helps you decide whether you need to collect and store the seeds or whether you can use them straight away.
Use Tomato Seeds Straight Away?
If your tomato variety is ready to plant within the same time window as you have your ripe tomatoes – you are good to go now.
It would however mean that either your tomatoes aren’t local of course (otherwise they would still be seeds themselves) or that they were forced earlies in a greenhouse. Depending on the length of this varieties season though – and your own conditions (if you are warmer for longer) it might still work.
Basically, all you need to do is widely slice your tomatoes and lay those slices flat in a freshly-filled pot of growing medium (potting compost will do). Ideally pop each slice in its own small pot because several plants could germinate from each slice (and we don’t want them overcrowded). Sprinkle a thin layer of soil over the top of them and water gently but thoroughly.
Pop them all in a warm sunny spot and keep moist by heavy misting. Try not to pour water directly onto the slices as they could move and get damaged or clump together.
Once you get the shoots coming through and the plants are about 3 or 4 inches (10cm) you can thin them out into bigger single pots. You need to be careful as their roots will be delicate and possibly still wrapped around each other. However, if there are only 1 or 2 in each original pot, just leave them together as they are. They can really come up fast in the right conditions – so keep a close watch – they are thirsty growers.
Storing Tomato Seeds For Later?
If, however, you find that the best season for your seeds isn’t for a few months or more – then you will want to dry your seeds. All very easy – and is literally as it sounds. Simply slice up your tomatoes and remove the flesh – leaving the really gloopy middle with all the seeds suspended in it.
No need to wash them – just fold over a sheet or two of kitchen roll and spread the seeds out across the paper. Try to keep them as far apart from each other as you can – as this will speed up the drying process and prevent them becoming mouldy. The double-thickness paper will absorb most of the moisture – but you can blot from the top if you want – just watch that too many don’t come off on each side.
Anyway – lay these sheets of seeds in a sunny spot for a few days to get them really dry. Keep an eye on them though, as if they aren’t drying fast enough or are too close together, you will need to make sure you either blot them again or spread them out further.
Once they are totally dry they will all easily peel off the sheet individually – even if they have bits of the gloop dried onto them – it doesn’t matter. Just gather them all up and put them into a small labelled paper envelope showing the variety, date collected and when to plant them.
Storing in plastic containers and bags can cause sweating (in warm or sunny locations) and this will rot your seeds before you have even started. So always:
- Store in paper envelopes or bags
- Keep in the dark – or at least away from natural sunlight
- Store in a well-ventilated tin or bag
So whether it is juicy plum tomatoes or super sweet yellow cherries – you should be totally fine to go ahead and grow them.