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Aug 12, 2010

kinderGARDENS Week 18 - We're saving seed!

We all know how poorly the green roof has done this summer, it's creeping just as slow as can be so I have had to find other projects for the kids to work on in the garden.

This week: Seed Saving!
Teaching the next generation to just say "no" to genetically engineered seed one kinder "gardener" at a time!
The storms over the past couple of weeks have shown me that the time is NOW for saving seed from the UFO tomato aka J. Gyllenhaal if we are to have future generations.

History: This seed was handed to me on the sly in a Master Gardener training class by an elderly lady who could no longer garden. She had 6 seeds left in the world, they had been saved in her family since the early 1900's and she was the last. That's a lot to live up to! Even though we have no clue (obviously from the name I have given them) what they are, they are huge heirloom, a beefsteak-meaty interior, the taste has improved steadily over the season, and is hands-down the healthiest tomato plant I have ever grown, hybrids included. These laughed in the face of wilt and extreme heat and windstorms that my other tomatoes succumbed to. Even if they didn't taste good, I kind of owe it to her to save the seed!

Enter the kids: this involves goo and mold so it is the perfect project for them!

Step 1: Select the best looking, ripest tomato of the harvest (i.e. the most Jake G. looking specimen!)

Step 2: Slice in half across the equator exposing all the seed cavities

Step 3: squeeze seeds AND pulp into jar or container, adding water really isn't necessary and can slow down the fermentation process, just make sure to get plenty of the pulp/juice in there

Here's what's left after squeezing! The kids love this step for the goo factor!

Step 4: cover and put aside, wait for mold to start growing! This is a fun step for the kids, it can take several days but in our house with the A/C struggling to keep up it only took 24 hours!

oh, the science of it all!

24-72 hrs later you should have mold growing and fermentation is underway! This natural fermentation is what removes the protective seed coat to prepare the seed for germination. Think of it this way: if left to its own devices, the tomato simply drops to the ground and turns into a rotten, slimy mess - but it's nature's way of perpetuation, that's how we get all those volunteers, another way is by animals eating the seeds and in turn their digestive systems break down the seed coat and it is then "pooped out" somewhere else where the seed will grow! Believe me, this is fun gross stuff to little boys!

Step 5: Once the mold has grown and fermentation has obviously been taking place (you'll smell it LOL), skim off the mold, add water and stir up. Look for floating seeds now and skim out, they are most likely not viable. Strain the rest out, rinse well, and leave to dry on a paper towel for 1-4 weeks, you want them to be fully dry before storing.

The kids can't quite figure out why mom put a picture on the paper towel, but I'm sure you can guess! Maybe for those that want to try these next year, I can send you a homemade J. Gyllenhaal artsy seed packet - sounds like a good winter project, albeit a loony one. But that's me, crazy mom!

Step 6: Store in airtight container, envelope, baggie, etc and make sure you LABEL them!

Step 7: Revel in the satisfaction of watching budding little botanists (pun intended) take a plant from SEED TO SEED!

Kids training video!

Bonus Footage...

Check out The Inadvertent Farmer and click on the kinderGARDENS button to see other participants' updates!


  1. Oh, man, the J.G. stuff is too funny. Your poor children. When they're around 10 or 11, they're going to find that sort of nonsense Terribly Embarrassing, so save it up!

  2. Love the J.G. name for the UFO tomatoes! (I agree, he certainly is nummy!)

    Erin, you do such a great job teaching your kids by blending it right into the things you are doing every day. They're growing up with common sense, responsibility, and self-reliance. They'll be able to take care of themselves in the most important ways. You go, girl!

  3. That is super cool! And what an awesome seed to 'inherit'! Love the name you gave them and thanks for learnin' me up! I think it's one of those things you just don't want to ask about or people like you and MamaPea might think of me as stuck on stupid or something...again! :)

  4. I love the Jake G Tomato name, and his picture on the paper towel made me chuckle. That is so wonderful that you are teaching your kids how to save seeds. I totally remember my dad teaching me how to save seeds when I was a kid, and those are great memories! Please put me on the list of those who want to try your Jake G seeds!

  5. Wow!!! This post was incredible! If the Inadvertent Farmer has an "educational" category in her contest, you get my vote. I'm a first time gardener and I've never thought about the difficulty of finding or rarity of non hybrid seeds. And heirloom seeds... Whoa! That's amazing!!!

    I'm a first time gardener, so maybe I'm a little slow... but all of this was news to me. And I loved every bit of it.

    Thanks so much!!!
    Rachymommy - MommyTopics.com

  6. fascinating stuff! i've never saved seeds - the farthest i've gone is shaking the dried heads of my favorite flowers to make sure lots of seeds make it to the ground. this looks fun!

  7. It has been my experience that if you use a paper towel, the seeds stick yo it. A better alternative would be to use wax or parchment paper.

  8. What fun. We did the tomato seed ferment last year and the boys, of course, found it fun. Except for the fact that it attacted fruit flys. I also don't use paper towels because the seeds stick too much. I just used old foil pie plates salvaged for the purpose and set them under the ceiling fan so they didn't stay wet too long.
    It's great that you're starting so young with your boys.

  9. Stefaneener, you are so right... I remember well being mortified by my parents!

    Mama Pea, I think the best I can do is teach them what schools don't in ways they find fun. I entertained homeschooling for awhile, but I know myself well enough to know that I don't have the patience for it, it only comes in bursts LOL

    ApplePie Gal, you are too funny! Remember, none of us is born knowing any of this! Like the blank stares I still give my husband watching him do plumbing and electrical work... it's been years and I'm clueless!

    Meemsnyc, I will make sure I get a list together this winter!

    MommyTopics.com & Kirsten, thanks I'm glad you found it interesting! And what you do with the herbs & flowers is the same thing! Just remember that most seeds don't need the "fermentation" step. If you want to know more, check out the Seed Savers Exchange website, they have tips and a blog to surf for some good info

    Anonymous & Judy, I didn't have any wax paper on hand, LOL, but I have found that I mess with them enough flicking them around that they don't stick. A little paper towel on them won't affect the germination, just might make it more difficult to see the seed! I was lucky I didn't have the fly issue this year because the fermentation only took a day. If it would have been cooler in the house the flys would have found our little party!

  10. This is great! I love the story of the old lady's tomato seed and fully appreciate what you're doing to save even just one seed from her heirloom plant! :) Way to go and thanks for sharing the "how-to". I'm on my way to the Seed Savers Exchange website RIGHT NOW!

  11. Erin- That was awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Thanks for the reminder and tutorial on seed saving. I'm sure my little guy will be more interested after I show him your kids training video! Love it!

  13. I LOVE that you're teaching the kids how to save seed! Fabulous post!!

  14. I REALLY need to start looking up seed-saving info! I've been saving the seeds from my marigolds, but I doubt they need the post-processing that tomato seeds do!

  15. I would be lost without you and Kate making me laugh all the time. Thanks. :)

  16. Erin-
    I just bawled my way through a video of military dad's coming home and surprising their children. Thinking of you all today!

  17. Alison, I just started doing marigolds too, they are so much easier, just shake and enjoy!

    Dani, ha! glad I could help :)

    Patty, you just reminded me it's time for my annual post of a homecoming and a dog video, that one will really make you cry, LOL! We just got our first phone call the other day from hubby, almost 3 months down!

  18. I know I commented, but I guess all the internet problems on my end lately didn't let it actually save. I think I said something like it looks like a fun boy project that Matthew and I might try the next year or so. I've been meaning to for about 5 years now anyway.

  19. Hey Apple Pie Gal - Don't you go givin' me credit for knowing much at all! There's still a whole heckuva a lot I don't know. Like how to save seeds!! I hope nobody around here gets penalized for asking questions (especially when we think they're stupid) 'cause I've still got PLENTY of them I'd like answered!

  20. I saved tomato seeds last year as well, it is so rewarding!! This year I have brussels sprouts, boc choy, carrots, lettuce and spinach so far. Seed to Seed is a great book with lots of helps as well.

    Great post, great pics and inspiration! Thanks!