How to Save Tomato Seeds.

There are as many varieties of tomatoes as there are mosquito bites on a bear’s ass. I don’t even really know what that means, I made it up and hope it sounds kind of folksy.

You know. Like I’m country folk who knows all about tomatoes. And bear’s asses.

Truth is nobody knows exactly how many varieties of tomatoes there are, but there’s thousands. 3,000 of which are heirloom tomatoes. An heirloom tomato is a plant that has not been bred with another tomato plant. It’s DNA is 100 percent inbred. Which could account for why they’re sometimes a bit wonky looking.

Heirlooms have not been hybridized with other tomatoes to make them look, ripen, and grow a certain way the way most grocery stores tomatoes have. They are as pure as they were when your great, great grandfather grew them in the 1800’s.

It’s because of this you can save the seeds of heirloom tomatoes and be guaranteed to get an exact replica of it from those seeds. If you save the seeds from a hybridized tomato you don’t have any idea what you’re going to get. You could plant the seeds from a juicy, round red tomato and get a pale pink flavourless tomato with stubby fingers and poor math skills. You just don’t know.

Even if you didn’t plant any heirloom tomatoes this year that doesn’t mean you can’t save seeds from them.

Take a trip to your local farmer’s market or organic grocery store and buy a few heirloom tomatoes. Whatever looks good. Ask the farmer about them. They’ll know which ones are the sweetest or saltiest. Take them home and taste them. See which ones you really like and then go out and buy another with the sole purpose of saving the seeds from it.

With most vegetables the only thing you have to do is let the seeds from the plant dry out.

With tomatoes there’s a little more work … but not much.

You know that jelly-like guck around the tomato seeds? In order to remove that you need to ferment the seeds.

The other reason you need to ferment the seeds is because tomato seeds are kind of smart. They actually have a sprout inhibitor built into them so they don’t start to grow while they’re in the tomato. Fermenting kills the sprout inhibitor. It also protects the seed and makes it more resistant to disease and bacteria.

THE SEEDS HAVE THEIR OWN BUILT IN SPROUT INHIBITOR! If Octomom’s seeds had had that she wouldn’t be doing porn right now. Well, she probably would, but it wouldn’t be to support her trillion kids, it’d be just for the fun of it.

How to Save Tomato Seeds

(detailed instructions following photos)


Slice In Half 3
Remove Seeds
Cover With Water 2
Mold On Tomatoes
Wash Seeds
Oziris Tomato Seeds

How to Save Tomato Seeds

1.  Cut soft tomato in half across the middle (not from stem to blossom end).  This will reveal whole pockets of seeds making them easy to remove. The tomato must be very ripe.

2.  Scoop seeds out into a bowl.

3.  Cover with a few tablespoons of water.

4.  Sit on kitchen counter until a thick mould forms.  4 days or so.   Once it smells like dead fish breath you’ll know you’re close to being done.

5.  Rinse seeds clean in sieve.

6.  Dry on plate (ceramic, plastic, or as a last resort paper)  Do not dry on paper towels because the seeds will stick to it and you’ll never get them off.

7.  Stir seeds up every day or so to make sure they’re drying evenly.

8.  Once seeds are completely dry (after several days) place in envelope and then in freezer, or seal in airtight container like mason jar or Tupperware. DON”T forget to label them.

One tomato will give you more seeds than there’s spots on a willy wonker’s pecker.

Again. Made it up.



Special thanks to Linda Crago from Tree & Twig for tutoring me on all things tomato, including how to save seeds.


→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←



  1. Kat says:

    You need to be a little more thorough with your directions in the “labeling” section.
    I labelled mine last year, but when I pulled them out this year my labels made no sense.
    I have “middle,” I have “big,” I have “Cinderella,” and I have “sweeter.”
    I have no idea what any of these are. Middle could be size of fruit, middle planting bed, middle bowl of fermenting seeds that I had forgotten to otherwise label?
    Don’t be me.

  2. cc says:

    I love it and you always start my day with a smile Karen, thank you..
    I am gonna try it this weekend, and I like Uncle Bobs way above too Sometimes when we just GET HER DONE it works just FINE..

    • Karen says:

      cc – Well .. yes you could go with Uncle Bob. Or you could go with Linda Crago, who grows thousands and thousands of tomatoes for a living and sells her seeds via mail order as well. You could go with Uncle Bob. Or you could go with Linda Crago who is a member of every esteemed seed saving society around the world including societies in Canada, England and France. Linda, who is an expert seed saver who travels the world buying rare tomato seeds which she then (using the technique I’ve shown) propagates and sells or shares the seeds. Or you could go with Uncle Bob. Hah! :) ~ karen

  3. Barb says:

    Isn’t “willy wonker’s pecker” a triple redundancy? Ha! Great seed saving info, thanks.

  4. Jake says:

    Yea, Kristina. But remember in those days there was no Ly*ol killing 99% of all germs, no antibiotics for everything from hangnail to spotty covered peckers. Your Uncle Bob didn’t know or care that the newsprint could possibly poison him (or care). We live in a sanitized world so we have to be whiter than white, cleaner than clean. Bring back the spotty pecker and grow your own grubs in any apples you find on the ground.:)

  5. Kristina says:

    My Uncle Bob, who was a really tight old farmer, used to just smear the tomato seeds on any old scrap of paper he could find, let the whole thing really dry out, then save the papers in labeled jars. He just tore the seedy paper into pieces and planted the seeds and paper together.

    It always seemed to work for him.

  6. Lisa says:

    Well, I hate to point this out but if you planted more than one variety of tomatoes in you yard, chances are that you hybridized your own tomatoes.

    Those different varieties planted close together? The bees/pollinators spread pollen from one plant to another, and now you have hybrid seeds.

    My dad plants about 300 tomato plants (he sells them) and half are heirlooms/half are roma. But he puts one heirloom waaaaaay away from the crop and only saves seeds from that one plant. In the past, saving seeds from the crop grew hybridized tomatoes.

    Also, I change the water in my seed saving cup every day and it doesn’t get gross, yet still works.

    • Karen says:

      Lisa – I actually asked Linda about planting heirlooms close together and she said it’s fine. Heirloom tomatoes very VERY rarely suffer from cross pollination with each other and are self pollinating. Also, it’s actually impossible for them to cross pollinate in the first year. See? I’m not so dumb. :) ~ karen

      • Lisa says:

        I will anxiously await next year’s results!! Odd about her comment though – every year I get seedlings come up that I usually let grow in place, and each year they are heirloom/cherry hybrids. And they all taste awful, but I dream that one day I’ll create my own awesome tomato variety and name it after my dad. :-)

      • Karen says:

        It’s possible that a hybrid could cross pollinate with an heirloom. I have no idea really … I just know heirlooms and heirlooms won’t likely cross pollinate. I brought it up to Linda, because I thought that cross pollination might be the reason my “Black Crim” tomatoes looked nothing like Black Crim. As it turns out … I just got an errant seed by accident and am growing God knows what kind of tomato, LOL. ~ k!

    • Siggy says:

      There are quite few false statements in your article. I thought I should comment on the most obvious one.
      Heirloom tomatoes seeds are not “guaranteed to get an exact replica of it”. I’m not sure where Linda is getting her information, but tomatoes, heirloom or otherwise, readily cross pollinate in the presence of bees. The ability to self pollinate doesn’t imply the inability or even unlikelihood to to cross pollinate. The idea that heirloom tomatoes can’t cross pollinate in the first year is false. What Linda is probably referring to is that most heirlooms have dominant genetic traits, that means when they cross pollinate the resulting offspring often still strongly resemble the parent plant. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t cross pollinate.

      And on the need to ferment the seed before storing. It’s not necessary, but it does give the added benefit of faster germination times and less likelihood of fouling.

      • Karen says:

        HI Siggy. It’s me Karen. The author of the article. I believe I stated that you can indeed save seeds without fermentation. If you think my name is Linda, then I’ll respond as her. Most of my information comes from Linda Crago who is a world leader in seed saving and heirloom tomatoes. She is a friend of mine. I understand your confusion about cross pollination of tomatoes, because many people are under the same impression. However, the likelihood of tomatoes cross pollinating with each other, even when planted side by side is extremely remote. In fact, almost impossible. That in fact is why heirlooms have existed for centuries. Thanks for reading. ~ karen (not linda)

      • Karen says:

        Here’s a quick reference for you. You can skip right to seed collecting. ~ karen!

  7. cred says:

    perfect timing! I have a purple russian waiting in my kitchen right now. Waiting to ripen so I can harvest its seeds.

    My tomatoes did poorly this year- not sure what their problem was. But my Big Beef were puny, my Early Girls were late and my Better Boys weren’t as good as others.
    These boastful hybrids may have better math skills than their inbred heirloom cousins but these conniving breeds didn’t live up to their names this year.

  8. Jen says:

    Wow! Thank you so much Karen! I was just wondering how to do this and was gonna google it! I opened my email and there you were! You have like ESPN….or something ;P haha I love your blog!!

  9. julie says:

    Paulette, pay attention!!!!!!

  10. julie says:

    oh lord, that was one of the funniest ever. Not to mention, very informative. xox

  11. Alice says:

    I’d read about that before and it just seemed too complicated — seeing the pictures lets my little brain know that it’s not so tricky. Thanks!

    By the way, I have occasionally sliced into a tomato and discovered a seed that has started to sprout — I guess it’s lost its inhibitions!

    • Con says:

      I too had that sprouted-seed-growing-inside-a-tomato experience. I figured it was some kind of end-of-the-world portent, but here we are, still alive and talking about spotty peckers.

  12. Langela says:

    Here’s my method, Karen. I let a few buggy or rotten tomatoes fall to the ground in the garden. There they rot. I remove plants at and of season and work the soil a bit. In the spring I get nice volunteer heirloom tomatoes. So much easier than your method!

  13. Debbie Neal says:

    Thanks for this!I hated all but 2 of my ‘maters this year. I’m going to the Farmers Market to pick out the ones I loved and see if they will work for me next year!

  14. Jeff Walker says:

    Just like to say your photography is exceptional. -j

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Jeff. I’m still trying to figure out this whole photography thing but after a year and a half the pics are finally getting a bit better. :) ~ k

  15. Mary Kay says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you – I have an Heirloom tomato plant (my first one ever) and the tomatoes were so good that I wanted to save the seeds for next year but had no idea how to do it with all the gunk around them – NOW I know!!

    Thanks! and thank you too for turning me onto Cubit’s Seeds – I bought some seeds from her and had some different kinds of tomatoes all were very good.

  16. Cindy Marlow says:

    If an heirloom tomato can stay pure for hundreds of years, one wonders why Monsanto’s genetically modified spores can’t stay out of neighboring farmers’ fields. Conspiracy? I think so. Having anything to do with bears’ asses, octomom porn, or willy wonker’s pecker? Prolly not, but interesting just the same.

  17. Debbie B says:

    thanks for the tomato info, but not for the ear worm of “willy wonker’s pecker” now being sung to music in my brain

  18. Amanda says:

    I found this method was really easy, especially for those pesky little cherry tomato seeds. I was surprised how easy they came clean after the yuckiness of the mold

  19. Tigersmom says:


    Now I’m envisioning a pecker covered with those rainbow colored candy dots that comes (sorry, poor word choice) are sold on rolls of paper.

  20. Naila says:

    Your seeds look gorgeous, but what a hassle! If you’re going to store them in a dry, dark place and you don’t mind if they don’t look pretty, scoop them out onto a piece of kitchen paper (or thick toilet paper) set on a plate or tray, guck and all, spread evenly, write the name of the variety in ballpoint (markers/sharpies will run) and leave it to dry. The guck dries and sticks the seeds to the paper. When dry, roll up the paper and store in an envelope or other porous material. To plant: cut small strips/squares of the paper and plant in rows/pots/grow bag, paper and all. The paper decomposes quickly, and I find it easier to plant this way as tomato seeds are so fiddly. But they don’t look as nice as yours!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Naila – I don’t see this as being a hassle at all. I mean, you scoop tomato seeds into a bowl, pour water over them and ignore them for 4 days. Also, with your method, the seeds don’t actually ferment. Tomato seeds are best to ferment. They will sprout faster and be more disease resistant. ~ karen

  21. Auntiepatch says:

    Oh, my gosh, you make me laugh! Thanks!

  22. Paulette says:

    You did write that. So much for speed reading! You share so much great information. Thanks for the quick reply.

  23. Tricia Rose says:

    I hope your little genetics lesson dissuaded someone somewhere from A.I.D..

    I have just realised this means I can buy all those interesting stripey tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market and go forth and multiply! The heritage tomatoes I grew this year from a free packet of seeds with Sunset Magazine have given me confidence, and now you have given me more: Karen, I thank you.

  24. Rebecca says:

    Hahah great post Karen!

  25. Paulette says:

    Is there a reason why you let it sit for 4 days? I’ve collected some seeds into a tissue from a fresh tomato and now I’m wondering if they’ll even work.

    • Karen says:

      Sorry Paulette, I thought I mentioned that in the post. YOu let the seeds sit for 4 days in order to ferment. The fermenting gets rid of the “guck” around the seed, it stops the natural “sprout inhibitor” that tomato seeds carry, and it builds up their resistance to disease. ~ karen!

    • melissa says:

      We only grow Amish Heirloom tomatoes and collect the seeds, put them on paper towels, let them dry, cut the paper towels into little squares and then plant them in pots to start in the spring. They never fail to come up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *