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Gardening with Laurie: Save your own seeds

By By Laurie Garretson
Aug. 22, 2013 at 3:22 a.m.


Last week, I wrote about growing heirloom tomatoes. As I mentioned then, heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated, not hybrids.

Open pollinated tomato seeds will produce the same type of fruit as the tomato that the seeds were taken from. Seeds taken from any hybrid tomato will not produce the same type of fruit as the parent plant.

The growing popularity of vegetable gardening has spurred the popularity of seed saving. Saving seeds is nothing new. Humans have saved seeds ever since they have grown plants.

In some Third World countries, saving seeds is a must. They depend on seeds from the year's crops to feed families the following season.

Fortunately, we do not have to depend on saving seeds to feed our families, at least not yet. But it is easy and kind of fun to save your own seeds. It doesn't take much time, and there's no special equipment needed.

I think it's nice to save seeds and pass them down to friends and family. Saved seeds can also make great gifts for fellow gardeners or wannabe gardeners.

You will want to save the seeds from the best of the best, whether it be the best tasting, size or color.

Always choose a healthy tomato that is at its prime, not over-ripe or under-ripe. The better the tomato, the better your chances of a great repeater.

Cut the tomato in half and squeeze or scoop out all the seeds and gel into an empty wide-mouth glass jar. Cover all the seeds and gel with two to three inches of water. Some people like to cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth or a paper towel. Some leave their jars uncovered. It does not make a difference.

Sit the jar in an out-of-the-way place out of the sun for about three to four days. After which, you will see a white, moldy goo has formed on the top of the liquid. This means the gelatinous coating on the seeds has dissolved.

The seeds should have dropped to the bottom of the container. Any floating seeds are not wanted. Carefully pour off all the moldy goo along with any floating seeds. Add more water and stir the remaining good seeds to help clean them off. Drain the seeds in a fine-mesh strainer.

Rinse with water until you feel the seeds are clean of all the gel coating.

Spread the cleaned seeds on a paper plate (do not use a china plate or paper towel) and let them dry. The seeds are ready to store when you can hear them rattling against each other.

Store seeds in a labeled container in a cool, dry, dark spot or in the fridge. Glass jars with tight-fitting lids make good storage containers. When storing seeds for months at a time, I'd store them in the fridge.

Now you have seeds for future plants, and can feel good about protecting genetic diversity in our food supply.

Until next time, let's try to work with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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