Growing and saving seeds from heirloom tomatoes

To the average tomato gardener, saving seeds from heirloom tomatoes means nothing.  Most people do not probably even know what an heirloom tomato is.  If they do, they probably don't realize the difference between an heirloom and hybrid.

Because of this reason, I decided to write a quick post detailing the difference between the two and a quick tutorial on how to save seeds.  Disclaimer...  This article is for the average gardener out there.  If you are an avid fan of tomatoes, this article will probably be old news and you should check out my cousin's site to expand your heirloom tomato knowledge.

Okay, back to the average tomato gardener.... why should you care about heirloom tomatoes?  First, you need to know the definition.  An heirloom tomato comes from a plant that has not been genetically altered otherwise known as a hybrid plant.  Heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated which means they could vary depending on what crosses with them.  Hybrid plants are altered so that a particular trait (color, taste, size, disease resistance) comes out every time.

So why would anybody pick heirloom tomatoes over hybrid plants?  Shouldn't hybrids be superior because of all the fine-tuning they have went through?  That might be the logical conclusion but bite into a heirloom or admire the beauty of one and you will be convinced otherwise!

Heirloom tomatoes in my opinion taste better, look cooler and are more fun to grow then hybrids.  Another cool thing about heirloom (my favorite part... I am a cheapskate!) plants is that they can be re-planted year after year by simply saving the seeds from the fruit.

This is something you cannot get from a hybrid tomato.  This is because the fine-tuning only happens in the lab and not in the field.  The hybrid you plant will show the dominant trait of its predecessor and that usually doesn't result in a very tasty tomato.

One last plug for heirloom tomatoes.  If the free seed part didn't sell you, think of the tradition that you can pass down to the next generation.  What fun is it to plant the same type of seeds from a big box seed company each year?  Wouldn't you rather pass on your secret tomatoes to the generations that come after you?

Heirloom tomatoes have been passed down year after year with some strands going back over a hundred years.  Imagine getting your hands on some of those seeds.  That would be a pretty cool thing to give to a fellow gardener or loved one wouldn't it?

Now that you know the positives of planting heirloom tomatoes you should know the negatives.  Heirloom tomatoes need to be watched closer for disease, don't grow as fast and don't get as big (beefsteak) or small (cherry) as the hybrid varieties.  Nobody said it would be easy but I would sacrifice having the biggest or fastest growing tomato for an heirloom any day! 

How to save seeds

Squeeze seeds into a bowl

Add water to bowl.  Leave seeds in water for 3-4 days.  Stir seeds/replace water daily.  Store in dark cool spot or they will sprout.

Put seeds on paper towel.  Store in cool, dry spot or they will sprout.  Mark paper towel with name of variety.  Picture shown is from different tomato than top pic for you connoisseurs!

Once the seeds dry for a few days, put them in a sealed container.  Again, keep cool,dark,dry or they will sprout.  Some people put in freezer but I have not tried that.

Heirloom tomatoes may sound like a lot of work but hopefully this article will persuade you to believe the positives outweigh the negatives.  Hopefully, you will try growing some heirloom tomatoes next year.  Help pass on the tradition!  You will be glad you did.



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Anonymous said...

Heirloom tomatoes have very stable genetics and when cross pollinated, will reproduce something very similar to the original plant. Hybrids on the other hand have been manipulated to have very specific properties(usually they are bred to survive being shipped and to look attractive on the shelf at the store). But hybrids do not have very stable genetics and when you try to replant seeds you saved, there is no telling what you will get. The best tasting tomatoes usually look like some wrinkly bulbous deformity. they taste excellent as they have been selected for flavor rather than looks.

greg said...

Thanks for the comment. I agree, do not replant hybrids if you want a tasty tomato. That usually does not happen.

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