The Cottage Smallholder

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How to save tomato seed easily and the Gardening Which? blind tasting test results for the tastiest tomatoes


Photo: Drying tomato seed

Photo: Drying tomato seed

This idea was given to me by Amalee Issa in a comment on a tomato post that I wrote. Amalee writes the quirky blog The Garden Diaries of Amalee Issa and is well worth a visit. Not just gardening and always entertaining.

Basically all you have to do is spread the seed on a piece of paper and let it dry in a warm room. Mark the piece of paper with the variety and store somwhere dry. In the Spring peel off the dried seed and sow as normal. I tried it last year and every seed germinated. Forget the fretting over water and seeds. This is easy peasy seed saving and it works well for tomatoes. Although F1 varieties are to be avoided as they will not guarantee to come true to the original seeds.

On the flavoursome tomato front Gardening Which? had an extremely interesting article in the April 2010 issue. Over 1000 people took part their blind tomato tasting event at The Totally Tomato Show in West Dean in September 2009 and the results are quite surprising. The badge of honour for the best overall taste went to Sioux (hadn’t heard of it but it’s now on my list and is available here). Other runners up were Matina, Orkado F1 followed by Stupice and Red Zebra.

It was the tomatoes that got the thumbs down that really interested me. Quite a few were tomatoes that are traditionally highly rated failed to impress on the flavour front. The hugely popular Alisa Craig and Alicante were rated very poor and poor on overall taste although Alisa Craig did crop very heavily. Other toms in the poor taste department were Battito, Comulous F1, Fantasio F1, Tango F1, Thalassa F1 and Golden Sunrise.

The thing to note is that Gardening Which? Grew just 19 varietites of tomatoes. There must be many varieties out there that deserve attention.
Back in the Cottage Smallholder garden the big surprise of this year was Yellow Centiflor sold by The Real Seed Catalogue. Our plants produced masses of fruit that burst in the mouth with flavour. Great in a stir fry or tickling up a salad. Can you recommend the most flavoursome tomatoes that you have grown? Tending tomatoes takes up a great deal of time and effort. And it’s so disapointing when the tomatoes turn out to be not as tasty as expected.  I only want to grow great tasting tomatoes and I’m sure that it’s the same with you.

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  1. Wow, Fiona, praise indeed! Thank you. And I don’t bother keeping any seeds in the fridge – too risky really; after a couple of gin and tonics packets of seeds might be added to a bit of yog for a bit of, “toast and dippage” in the spirit of horticultural exploration.


    (I’ve been away for ages and working like a slave in the meantime, hence this rather belated reading and commenting on yr blog)

  2. Auntie Madge (a Heritage Seed Library variety) – a plum cherry with a very thin skin and bursting with flavour. One big downside, though, if you’re a lazy gardener – you pinch out the side shoots to leave the flowering trusses and then discover that these then turn into leaves at the tip. So you have to be doubly careful! However, they cropped very well outside this year and seem to be partially resistant to blight.

    As for saving chilli seed, I’ve saved the seeds from the sweet Romano peppers I bought in Waitrose and they all germinated the following year and gave a good harvest.

  3. Thanks for the tips Fiona, I’m planning to save seed more often and not bother so much with the F1 sorts. We try to grow a lot of tomatoes I always like the ideaa of bottling lots of sauce for the winter months two years ago I bought all the equipment and set out a planting plan but most were cut down by blight. However last year was a better summer, actually too warm for me and I was not well enought to give the crops the attention they usually get. The 8 or so plants in the greenhouse fried the heaviest and best crops were from Lilly of the Valley and Yellow Sungold both grown against a south facing fense at the end of the garden they had to fend for themselves infrequent watering, no picking out of side shoots and romping over the ground that had been given a thick mulch of straw there were only some mean attempts at tying on to strings & sticks. The result absolutely amazing flavour. I’m planning on a less tidy garden next year.

  4. This Summer I grew Latah, Urbikany, Legend and ToXB (Bush Tomato Breeding Project), all from the Real Seed Company. As an afterthought I added a tired plant of Golden Sunrise, picked up cheap from Homebase.
    I have to disagree with Which?: Golden Sunrise croped well outdoors for me and was the best-tasting of the varieties I grew, sweeet and nicely acid. The ToXB was next-best.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Louise

    I grew sweet olive one year and it was really good – I’d forgotten all about it, so thank you! Interesting that the seeds came true 😉

    Hi SheyMouse

    Lucy has beaten me to it! I didn’t know about storing in the salad drawer of the fridge though.

    Hello Lucy

    I’ve noted those varieties down. Thank you.

    I’m trying to save as much of my seed as possible these days.

    Hi Barney

    Marmande is on the list! What a shame that you are not a tomato fan – tomato sandwiches are to die for.

  6. i’m not a fan of tomatoes (to eat) but grow something different each year this time i tried marmande, huge fruit and good cropper, everyone who ate them remarked on the fabulous flavour my daughter is still raving about them from when she came home in august:)

  7. My top toms have been whittled down to: Black Krim (huge purple-ish fruit, great flavour, medium yeild), Reisentraube (cherry tom, fab flavour, huge yeild, pretty weeping bush very mildew resistant)Black Cherry (guess what, cherry tom, blackish, great flavour, medium yeild).
    SheyMouse: yes, I save chilli seeds and in fact most seeds that way; a couple of days spread out on kitchen roll to dry off, then in paper bags in the salad drawer of the fridge, will keep a year or so like that.

  8. SheyMouse

    I didn’t realise it was that easy to dry and keep tomato seeds. Do you think the same method will work for chilli seeds?

  9. we love Sweet Olive, an olive shaped cherry tom, very prolific and amazingly tasty. It is an F1 but i let some self sown ones fruit this year as an experiment and they were just about identical to the parent.

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