Thursday, October 14, 2010

Betty Plays Hunter/Gatherer: Saving Seeds

For my Northerly neighbors, I apologize for posting this so late in your growing season....here in the South, Fall is at it's most beautiful but it is still warm enough for my tomato plants to keep producing (I have 4 nearly ripe babies as we speak and 3 on the counter now).
Growing tomatoes on the deck this year has provided all kinds of new insight into the process for me and now I am mentally prepping for next year--including saving seeds for next spring.

All of my original supplies for this year came from my generous parents--to whom I am constantly grateful; but I didn't get to pick out the variety of fruit I was thinking of. I was picturing heavy, hearty beefsteak tomatoes that could cover a BLT in one slice.

I got cherry tomatoes instead.
But they were really very delicious and I certainly wouldn't mind another go with them next year so I am keeping some of the seeds....along with a few varieties from the grocery store.
Hey, I paid for all of it, right?

Originally, I figured I could smear them on a paper plate to dry and pick them off to store. Which, it turns out, according to my Great Aunt, you can; she's been doing that for years and years and via a generous Aunt and Uncle, I now possess a highly-guarded packet of heirloom tomatoes that my Great Grandmother used to grow.....and I'd like to see the fool who tries to take them from me.

And then there is the paper plate that arrived this week with the seeds of a German Pink Tomato lavished across it from a good friend in "the old country" (aka Pennsylvania) gathered by a 94 year old woman who knows her stuff. What a gift!

However, knowing I would want to blog this, I thought I would check into the "official" way of doing all of this harvesting stuff....turns out, you aren't supposed to just smear and dry. huh? who knew? well, not my ancestors, I guess; or a 94 year old woman who could have very well smuggled those seeds off a paper plate on the ark.

According to some reputable authorities, the seeds are supposed to be fermented first in water. This simulates the process a seed would go through when the fruit falls to the ground and rots. The protective slime coat would disintegrate and leave the seed to work its way into the ground.

In reality, this is a simple process that takes a few days of not doing anything at all. Basically, the seeds you've wrangled from your fruit goes into a glass jar (or a bowl if you are very brave-you'll see why) and you cover them with a couple inches of water.

this is a high-tech
operation
this does not smell good
Cover the jar with a bit of paper towel secured with a rubber band. The towel keeps some of the exceptionally foul odor from dissipating into your living area....and since you need to keep this in a warm area, you probably won't be able to do this in your garage or back shed.

After a day or two, give the mixture a shake to help break down the protective matter around the seeds and then continue to let the seeds sit in the water until--wait for it....they mold. mmmmm

After 3-4 days, the water will have a scum/mold layer on the top-harder to see in a glass jar but it's still there. Meanwhile, the viable seeds have sunk to the bottom. With a spoon, remove the nastiness on the top of your container.

Next, with a fine mesh strainer, rinse the remaining seeds. These are your keepers. Place them on a glass plate, not paper so they can dry without sticking to the paper. Stir them up a few times as they dry to speed the process but don't microwave or put under a blow dryer to dry them faster. When they are completely dry, place in a paper envelope and seal in a light proof place. Make sure you label what kind you have--trust me, you won't really remember come March next year.

So I now have 4 kinds of tomato seeds in a little container, waiting for spring. I also have saved the seeds from some peppers. I just dried them on a plate. Go figure.  We will see if that works.

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