Tomato Seedlings Warm Up Winter


Particularly in August, I feel a sort of tomato delirium. I love biting through the slightly resistant outer flesh towards the tart, slippery reward of the inner gel sacs. I make salads and sauces and jellies, bruschetta and gazpacho and homemade catsup. I even make cocktails from the stuff! I probably average a three-tomato a day habit.

Last spring was my great farmer’s market awakening. Up until that point, I shopped mainly in mom and pop grocers and corner delis. Now, having entered the warmth and luxury of the green market universe, I cannot imagine shopping anywhere else. This has meant a reduction in the produce that I eat, as the realities of a frigid Zone 5 (with some local farms in Zone 4!) set in. I eat a lot of root vegetables and more canned preserves than is good for anyone’s glucose levels.

But, throughout the winter paucity, a few washed-out spice jars in the back corner of my cupboard have helped me stave off the winter blues. You see, I harvested tomato seeds from the most delicious of my August, 2007 market purchases. I kept green zebra, ida gold and even black krim seeds. My miniature collection represents all of the best of Toronto’s offered fare. I went from Cabbagetown to Front Street to Christie Pitts in search of the most delicious and unusual responsibly-grown produce.

When I look at the saved seeds, I am reminded of the particular pleasures of enjoying an ingredient at the height of its season and, by extension, the way that eating in season helps me to celebrate the growing cycles that make up the natural world. By eating in an earthly way, I find a continual respect for nature. I believe that this helps my commitment to the environment.

In any case, a moment of bragging: my initial drying and disinfecting process has given way – just today – to the very first seedlings! I cannot wait to plant them outside, although given the recent blizzards, I might not have the chance until May. Now having succeeded in my small-scale seed saving experiment, I thought I would share with you my process of extracting and salvaging the seeds from the fruit.

Harvesting Seeds From A Tomato:
Step #1: Cut tomato in half lengthwise and squeeze the seeds and goo into a clean glass.

Step #2: Add a few tablespoons of water to the glass and leave it uncovered (or if you are worried about fruit flies or curious pets, cover it with saran wrap and poke holes out for aeration) on a windowsill until mold covers the top. This should take about three days. You should see an entire layer of white mold across the surface of the seed and water mixture.

Step #3: Scrape off the mold with a clean spoon and then add a bit of clean water to the mixture. Drain well, keeping the seeds in the glass, but allowing any mold or debris to exit.

Step #4: Rinse the seeds well again and this time, check to see where the seeds settle. Viable seeds will sink to the bottom, while dead seeds will remain floating on the water’s surface. Pour out the dead, floating seeds and drain the remaining seeds.

Step #5: Spread the good seeds on a china or glass plate and allow them to dry. This should take about one day.

Step #6: Put the seeds into a clean, closed container and store away from the light.

When the time comes to sprout the seeds, I followed the advice of this gardening blogger. I bought coco fiber bedding from the pet store (its more sustainable than peat pads) and left the seeds in the moistened fiber. They sprouted after three or four days, at which point I transfered them to little terracotta pots.

I’ll report back with how the seedlings fare and will likely fire off a slate of tomato recipes as well. I hope the thought of perfect tomatoes sustains you on this cold winter morning!

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