Last Updated: April 8, 2023
So you’ve heard that saving tomato seeds requires fermenting them, first. Sure, fermenting tomato seeds is an option to get a cleaner seed, but it actually doesn’t show a big difference in germination rates.
In this article, I’ll show you how to save tomato seeds without fermenting. This easy method will save you time and won’t negatively impact your germination rates.
The No-Fermenting Method
Fermentation helps break down the gelatinous substance that surrounds a tomato seed. This gel can be sticky and slippery when wet, making seeds a bit more cumbersome and messy to handle and store.
However, contrary to popular belief, this gel does not inhibit germination! The main benefit of fermenting the seeds is to make them cleaner and easier to handle and plant.
So, this means that it is not necessary to ferment your tomato seeds prior to storing them. Unfermented tomato seeds will still germinate well, though they may be a bit less clean and tidy in appearance.
How to save tomato seeds without fermenting (steps):
- Choose a ripe tomato.
To make sure your seeds are viable, choose a fully ripe tomato. Ideally, the tomato should be allowed to ripen on the vine before picking.
- Slice the tomato cross-wise.
I’ve found the easiest method for removing the seeds from a tomato is to slice it horizontally across the center.
- Squeeze the tomato pulp into a strainer.
Squeeze the tomato halves over a fine-mesh strainer, allowing the seeds and some pulp to drop. The strainer should be fine enough to catch the small seeds.
- Clean the seeds with water.
Run cool water over the seeds, using a spoon or your fingers to gently massage the seeds. This should help separate the seeds from the tomato pulp. Remove any large bits of tomato flesh as you go until you are left with mostly seeds.
- Dry the seeds on wax paper or a ceramic plate.
Place the cleaned seeds onto a ceramic plate or wax paper. Do not use a paper towel as the gel on the seeds will stick to it as they dry. Allow the seeds to dehydrate at room temperature for 3-5 days.
- Store dried seeds in a cool place.
Remove the dried seeds and break them up gently with your hands (it is normal for them to be stuck together). Then, store the seeds in a paper envelope or plastic baggie in a cool, dry location. The refrigerator is ideal, but the pantry works too.
- Plant the seeds normally.
When spring arrives, plant your seeds normally! Our germination results have been just as good as fermented seeds.
That’s it! Rinsing the seeds to remove the flesh is the only somewhat laborious part, but it only takes a few minutes. Fermentation takes 2-3 days, so you’re saving quite a bit of time using this method.
Optional step: If you want to remove the gel from the seeds manually, you can use a paper towel to rub the fresh seeds. This will remove some of the gel from the seeds before you dry them. However, this can become a sticky mess, so I recommend skipping it!
Why bother with fermentation?
As I mentioned, fermentation does not make a notable difference in germination (Don’t believe me? Just watch this video testing out the different methods). So why bother fermenting tomato seeds?
In short, fermenting tomato seeds before drying them helps produce a very clean seed. However, it takes much longer, does not improve germination rates, and is messy.
So, for most home gardeners, the no-fermentation method is a simpler option. This saves me so much time and effort when seed saving time comes around each year. Plus, no more worrying about smelly fermenting seeds!
I hope this article has helped you learn how to save tomato seeds without fermenting. Once I learned the truth about this whole process, I never looked back!