Most of us are quite familiar with buying seeds or sharing seeds. Seed saving is something not many of us do that often.
What exactly is seed saving?
Seed saving is a process of collecting seeds from the fruit of the plant for sowing in the coming season.
Why save seeds?
Back then, there were no seed companies, so farmers save their own seeds during every harvest and use it for their next crop. Imagine, if farmers didn’t save seed of the varieties of veggies they had, we would be having only one kind of tomato. Yes the regular market variety. You get the idea.
Ok I hear you!. Farmers have acres of land and their demand is very high and also, they save a lot of money by saving their own seeds. Hence It makes sense for them to save! But why a nano/micro farmer ( us folks 😉 has to save seeds. If I shell out few bucks, I get a pack of seeds which I can use for centuries, why get my hands dirty and save seeds?.
Here is why you should save your own seeds.
1. You protect the variety from becoming rare or even extinct.
This may not be applicable to most of us.But there are families who save the seeds that were given to them by their ancestors. Most of the heirloom varieties that we fancy today are the result of careful seed saving.
2. Preserving the diversity of the species.
Plants develop special traits over the years based on the location they grow and they adapt. Hence the variety is much more suited for that location and aptly called ‘native’ variety. If we don’t preserve diversity, then we are literally destroying the change that nature brought into those plants by evolution. Think about it.
3. You get fresh seeds to sow.
Trust me, once you start saving seeds, you will not go buy it from the shop. I had saved tomato, lettuce and few flowering plants like Aster, Zinnia. I have had amazing germination rates. Few weeks back, I saved the seeds of Yellow pear tomatoes. When I had bought the seeds, the germination rates were very poor. Not even 30 % sometimes. With the seeds that I collected, the results are excellent. Sometimes I even get 100%.
Same with lettuce, the difference is phenomenal. The purchased seeds of lettuce “Cimmaron” took 10 days germinate. The ones I collected took a record time of “2” days. Yes just 2 days. I was excited.
4. It saves money:
Sometimes, when you buy seeds from big seed companies, you get 10-20 seeds. In that some may not germinate. If you dont save seeds from the yield you get.Then you have go and buy the seeds from them again. But, If you had saved the seeds, not only you use it as long as you want but you can share /sell them as well. How about that?
With these thoughts I will now give a step by step procedure of collecting seeds from tomatoes.
- Tomato (Of your choice)
- A Cup
- Polythene sheet/bag.
Take the tomato of your choice. It could be the one that you pluck from the plant or the one that you found tasty. It should be ripe. Cut the ripe tomato in its equator and squeeze the pulp into a container. If you observe the seeds that fallout, they have a gelatinous coating that inhibits germination. Once all the pulp is collected in the container, add some water and mix it well.
Cover the container with the polythene sheet then fastened with a rubber band so that it closes the container properly. Then you make a small slit in the polythene near the top centre. This helps in aeration. Mark the container with the name of the variety of the tomato whose seeds you are saving.
Keep the container in a warm spot away from the direct sunlight. Also ensure that there are no flies. If there are flies, you cover the container completely with a thin cloth.
Leave it for 2 days.
Check after 2 days. You will see something like this. Stir it and keep it in its location as it was.
Next day, it will look like this. NOTE: It is not very pleasant to look or to smell. What you see is a result of fermentation. The fermentation process will break down the coating on top the tomato seeds. Do not leave the seeds in this condition too long. Sometimes they start germinating or they become dark brown in color.
Now you take the container that has fermented seed pulp and using a spoon remove the white layer on top and throw it. It contains the tomato tissue, bad seeds and pulp. Then Add water, mix it well and drain the water. Do this many times, till the water remains clear and at the bottom you will good seeds settle in. After several cycles of this, you will have good healthy seeds that remain in the bottom.
It will look something like this.
The seeds are spread out in a plate ( Coffee filter paper might work). I used normal tissue paper to absorb the moisture, but the seeds stick to the paper and its a bit of pain to remove the seeds from the paper. The seeds are then air dried. Which means, keep it in a place with good ventilation and away from direct sunlight. Stir it few times so that they dont stick to each other. It might take a day or two. Be patient. Once it is dried, store them in a cool dry place. You are all set to use them in your next batch.
Save seeds and Enjoy.
In my next post, I will explain about open pollinated varieties and Hybrids.