CRAIG COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Tomato season is winding down, but it’s never too late to think about next season!

Jason Matayas from Seeds for Generations joined WFXR to give us All the Dirt on how to save your seeds, so you can have a bountiful harvest next summer. But first, there is a process.

“Well, the first thing to understand is what kind of tomato seeds you can save and get reliable results. You’ll need heirloom tomato varieties, also known as open-pollinated varieties. These types of plants are genetically stable and will produce the same type of fruit as their parents, unlike hybrid seeds, which are not genetically stable yet and will not give reliable results,” said Matayas.

He says one of the great things about tomato plants is they self-pollinate and have a flower structure that makes cross-pollination highly unlikely. This means that gardeners can grow as many varieties of tomatoes next to each other and not have cross-pollination. Matayas adds that once your tomatoes are ripe you can pick and harvest them.

“One of the best things about tomatoes is that since we eat the ripe fruit (unlike green beans or cucumbers, which are harvested immature), we can enjoy the delicious fruit and also save the seed at the same time,” explained Matayas.

He shared that once you cut your fruit, squeeze all the juice out, and then remove all the seeds from the cavities with your fingers.

Tomato cut in half (WFXR News)

Matayas says tomato seeds have a gelatinous coating on them that inhibits germination, and to remove that coating the seeds need to be fermented. He adds that this will help loosen and separate the seeds.

“Put your seeds and juice in a container at room temperature and leave it for about three days or until a white mold begins to form on the top,” said Matayas. “If the tomato did not have much juice and the seeds are not submerged in liquid, add some water to ensure that they don’t dry out during the fermentation process.”

He shared that after three days the seeds will have a slight white mold on them, but you would want to clean them and put them in water.

“Stir well and let the seeds settle to the bottom, then pour off the gunk at the top.  Repeat two to three times or until you only have seeds in clear water, then pour the seeds into a sieve or screen and let them dry completely. Once dry, put them into a properly marked envelope and store them in a dry, cool, preferably dark place,” said Matayas

He says tomato seeds have a long storage life and should last at least 3-5 years with high germination; however, he says he regularly gets greater than 50% germination from tomato seeds that are a decade old.

Seeds for Generations is a family business that operates in the mountains of Craig County. Matays said the mission is to equip more families to grow more of their own food through producing, and sharing education and training content and resources.

If you would like to learn more about how to harvest tomato seeds and grow your own food, visit the Seeds for Generations website.