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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved
If you have old fashioned, non-hybrid tomatoes, you can save your own seed. Save and sacrifice a few ripe tomatoes to perpetuate the seeds for future plantings. Select several fully ripe tomatoes and squeeze the seeds into a bottle or other container. Let them sit in their own juice for several days. They will ferment, making it easier to separate the seeds from the pulp.
The fermented seeds sink from the pulp which floats. Add more water to the fermented mixture, and then carefully pour off the floating pulp and most of the water. The seeds are left on the bottom of the container. Pour seeds onto a paper towel or a piece of newspaper and leave them at room temperature until they are thoroughly dry.
Keep your seeds in a labeled container or envelope in a cool, dry place where insects or rodents cannot get to them. Tomato seeds store well for four or five years. Most new commercial varieties of tomatoes are hybrids and you cannot store the seeds from those. Hybrids do not come true from seed and rarely produce seeds that produce plants like the parents. Their seeds are unpredictable results because of genetic recombinations.
Some hybrid seeds are genetically incapable of producing seeds. Like a donkey and a horse, hybrid plants may produce mules which are sterile offspring and are incapable or reproducing future generations.
Home gardener cannot save reliable seed from hybrid plants. Seed for hybrid varieties must be purchased year after year from the seed companies or nurseries, unless you want to gamble and grow an array of offspring.
Standard, old-fashioned, heirloom or non-hybrid varieties are more or less stabilized in their habits. They remain fairly consistent, producing seed that will grow into plants more or less like their parent plants, though less uniform than hybrids.
Check on your tomato seed package to see whether the variety you planted is hybrid or non-hybrid. Tomatoes are all self-pollinating and are wind pollinated naturally in the field. Outcrossing by insects can occur, but it is rare. If you consistently plan to save seed, grow the plants by themselves in an isolated spot in your garden.
Standard, non-hybrid tomato varieties usually produce viable seed, so home gardeners can dependably collect and save their own seed. Most other vegetable cross freely so it is usually less work to buy new seeds commercially instead of trying to save your own.