Saving tomato seeds: how to collect & dry tomato seeds


I studied horticultural sciences at university and in my free time you can find me in my own patch of land, growing anything with roots. I am particularly passionate about self-sufficiency and seasonal food.

Favourite fruit: quince, cornelian cherry and blueberries
Favourite vegetables: peas, tomatoes and garlic

Enjoy your favourite tomato every year by saving and drying your own tomato seeds. Here is our guide, on collecting and saving heirloom tomato seeds.

Self dried tomato seeds
You can collect your own tomato seeds from homegrown tomatoes [Photo: Swellphotography/]

You may wonder why tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) from the supermarket taste so watery. If you remember eating home-grown tomatoes as a child, you may remember them having a much stronger taste. This is not just nostalgia – there is a real difference!

If you have a terrace, balcony, greenhouse or garden, growing delicious tomatoes is easy. Try growing some trusted varieties, share them amongst family and friends, and once you have found your favourite (or favourites), collect its seeds and you will be able to cultivate it for years to come!

Collecting and drying tomato seeds yourself: instructions

Before harvesting your tomato seeds, leave one or two fruits on your tomato plant until they are overripe. This will ensure that the seeds inside are fully formed. Fully formed seeds germinate much better and produce healthier plants than young seeds.

To collect the tomato seeds, pick the overripe tomato from your plant, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds with a knife or spoon. Lay the slippery seeds on a small piece of baking paper and let them dry. Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to remove the gelatinous coating from the seeds. Once the jelly has dried, it protects the seeds and ensures that they store well. Tomato seeds must be very dry before they are packed away for winter storage.

Place the small, well-dried seeds on pieces of baking paper, and place this baking paper inside a well-sealed plastic bag. Remember to label the seeds (variety name and harvest year) so you don’t forget which is which! Once the seeds are air-tight and stored in a dry, cool and dark place, it is time to sit back and relax: your tomato seeds will last for at least five years.

Never freeze tomato seeds; they will not survive such cold temperatures.

Tip: Home-grown tomato seeds of an old heirloom variety are a great gift for all hobby gardeners!

Tomato seeds drying on paper
Spread the seeds (with fruit pulp) on the paper and let them dry [Photo: Steven Giles/]

Recap: saving tomato seeds

  1. Select and grow an heirloom variety, not an F1 hybrid.
  2. Harvest overripe fruits and cut them in half.
  3. Remove the seeds with a spoon and spread them on baking paper.
  4. Allow tomato seeds to air dry.
  5. Put the seeds into sealed bags, label and store in a cool, dry place for up to 5 years.

Advantages of saving tomato seeds

Tomato seeds are very easy to harvest and dry yourself. Different species contain different numbers of seeds, but usually, a single fruit will contain enough seeds for the next few years.

Tomato seeds, if stored in a cool, dry place, will continue to germinate after 5 years in storage. This is not common. Most vegetable seeds cannot survive so long. What is more, because tomatoes usually self-pollinate, you can cultivate exactly the same variety each year using the same seeds.

This is in contrast to modern tomato varieties, which often bear the suffix F1 hybrid. These hybrids are the product of two genetically separate parents, and are designed to be disease resistant or high yielding. Unfortunately, if you pollinate the flowers of a hybrid variety, their genes will mix randomly and the next generation is likely to have many different characteristics from the parents.

saving tomato seeds for next year
If you have a favourite tomato variety, you can use the harvested fruit to save your own seeds for the following season [Photo: RMIKKA/]

The biggest advantage of heirloom varieties is that you can save their seeds. If an heirloom variety self-pollinates, its genes are conserved, and with them, the tomato plant’s characteristics. This saves you the cost of buying seeds again, allows you to reproduce the same variety for decades, and preserves tomato diversity along the way.

Saving tomato seeds: the advantages 

  • Easy to remove and dry seeds
  • Up to 5-year shelf-life with the right storage
  • Propagate heirloom varieties yourself
  • No need to buy new seeds and preserve cultural heritage

Learn how to cultivate tomato plants from your saved seeds by sowing tomatoes.

Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
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  • Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
  • For aromatic herbs & healthy seedlings with strong roots
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition