It's getting pretty chilly here on the farm - the other morning my thermometer told me it was close to zero degrees when I got back from my morning chores (and yes, I was rugged up!), and we've had a couple of light frosts. Dropping temps overnight and reduced day-length mean a number of things to a garden - it stimulates some plants to move into dormancy, others to kick it up a notch, our chookies are moulting and the deciduous trees are all turning various shades of autumn.
Perhaps the most noticeable thing though, has been the slow down in zucchini production and tomato harvesting. Where we were drowning in zucchinis a fortnight ago, now it's down to one or two every couple of days, and the tomatoes are taking their sweet time to ripen, even though the bushes are still laden with green fruit. This sudden turnaround can only mean one thing - every ripe tomato between now and the first real frost is a blessing, and the best ones need to be pulled apart to prepare for next summers bounty.
Here's how to save seed from tomatoes -
Grab an old glass jar, rip your favourite tomato apart, use your thumb to scoop out the seeds and drop them in. You only want the seeds and the pulp around it, so if you wanted to use the flesh of the tomato once you've harvested the seeds, go right ahead.
It's important to only use properly ripe fruit though- you want to make sure you are saving fully mature seed. Another tip is to literally rip the tomato up rather than cutting it, so you aren't damaging any seeds by cutting them with a knife - this is really only important if you are down to your last ripe tomato and want to make sure you get the maximum number of seeds possible like I was with this delicious Tomato Brandy Wine Pink.
Pour a little water into your jar, just enough to cover the pulp. Pop your lid on, and sit it on your bench or windowsill out of direct sunlight, for about a week. What we are wanting is a delightful little mouldy scum to form - this fermentation eats away the outer coating of the tomato seed which is there to stop the seed germinating. This fermentation would naturally happen in the ground if you'd let the fruit fall off the vine and rot, leaving the seed ready for the next season (rather than allowing it to germinate during the current season, and compete with it's parent plant). By fermenting the seeds now, you are all ready for quick starting tomato plants in spring.
Once the fermentation is looking nice and scummy (about a week in the photo above), tip the contents of the jar into a fine sieve, and rinse the pulp and scum off the seeds. Lay the seeds out on paper towel to dry, then store in a paper bag. I'll be moving mine into an airtight container after a few weeks, so I know that they have dried completely first.
Easy peasy - not only do you have seed on hand to grow your favourites again, you grow from seed that is naturalised to you specific micro-climate, meaning plants that do well for your climate and soil type. I have to admit, I haven't been all that fussed with saving seed before, but this year I've saved Italian Parsley, Wild Rocket and Purple Basil as well as these tomatoes. Fingers crossed for a good strike rate next season.
Do you seed-save or do you like to try new varieties every year? I'd love to hear any of your seed-saving tips in the comments below!