I was harvesting tomatoes this week and was surprised to see the difference between tomatoes growing outside and in my greenhouse. I grow about twenty different kinds of tomatoes and its a big seed collecting time for me. I need to select the best tomatoes for seed saving.
The Cherokee Purple tomato on the left was grown outside. It has the markings expected from harsh changes in outdoor conditions although its been the hottest and driest summer in a long time. The one on the left was grown in the ground with a mulch of wet newspaper and straw which meant watering was minimal. The Cherokee Purple tomato on the right was grown in a greenhouse, in a five gallon container and watered daily. Check out how smooth the skin is on the greenhouse tomato. Its kind of what most people look for in a tomato. I posted this photo on gardenchat the other night and someone asked me if the tomatoes tasted the same. It was time for a taste test.
Yes, the one grown outside had slightly better flavour but not by enough. It was a close choice. I was making a tomato pie last night and realized I should show you how the Cherokee purple tomato looks inside. Its dark rich red colour is amazing. As a seed saver I was worried I wouldn’t find any seeds. It was hard to see them. The flavour of this tomato is one that will have you growing it each year. Its warm richness, not too acidic flavour is prized by chefs. It is a meaty tomato and great for fresh slicing and for cooking.
So where were the seeds? This seed crazy person had to figure it out. I cut the tomato again and there they were. Its like this tomato has hidden back pockets. You have to carefully scoop out the sides just along the underside of the skin. Trust me its hiding a lot of seeds.
Lots of seeds are in the bottom of this jar along with the juice of the tomato. If you look closely at the seed you will see a jelly like substance around the seed. This is what you will be removing through the fermenting process.
I scoop the seeds into a clean mason jar and added a bit of water. I add just an inch, no more.
I cut a piece of parchment paper and write the name of the tomato and date on it and secure it on the jar using a jar ring. If you come over I will have jars of fermenting seeds lined up in the dining room where its darker. So why do I ferment my tomato seeds? It helps to remove the gelatinous coating from the seeds and will help to prevent any diseases from staying on the seed. I sure don’t need any fungal problems. Leave your seeds to ferment in the jars for about four to five days.
When you see mould starting to form on the surface of the water, its time to rinse them off. I know its pretty gross but I have seen worse.Take your seeds to the kitchen sink and remove the lid. Add some fresh water to your mouldy seed mixture. Let the seeds settle to the bottom of the jar. Slowly pour the water out of the jar over the sink being carefully to just let a bit out at a time. You want to see the mouldy stuff and any tomato pulp go into the sink, not your seeds. You may have to keep adding a bit of water and repeat the process several times. Each time the seeds get a bit cleaner. This is what you want.
Remember the label you used on the jar. Do not throw it away. Place it under or over your seeds once on a plate. Place your seeds on a ceramic or plastic plate. Do not use paper plates or paper towels or you will have a hard time trying to pry your seeds off the paper. If you have excess water from placing the seeds on the plate, you can gently dab with the corner of a piece of paper towel to soak some of the water up. Leave the seeds to dry on the plate for a few days. Once completely dry lift the seeds off and place into an envelope for storage. Be sure to mark the variety of the tomato and date packaged on the envelope. Store your seeds in a cool dry dark place. I like to store mine in a box in my garage where they are easy to find in the spring or when you are perusing all those seed catalogues in January.