The Q&A Archives: Saving Seeds from Tomatoes and Peppers

Question: Is a Tomato a fruit or a vegetable? The second question is I have gotten tomatoes in our garden how do I save the seeds do I just cut it open and save the seeds if so then do the seeds need special treatment?

Do peppers need to be red for the seeds to be good and is the any special treatment for peppers?
Sam Falk

P.S., Thank You so? much!

Answer: The confusion about 'fruit' and 'vegetable' arises because of the differences in usage between scientists and cooks. Scientifically speaking, a tomato is definitely a fruit. True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant (though cultivated forms may be seedless). Blueberries, raspberries, and oranges are true fruits, and so are many kinds of nut. Some plants have a soft part which supports the seeds and is also called a 'fruit', though it is not developed from the ovary: the strawberry is an example. As far as cooking is concerned, some things which are strictly fruits may be called 'vegetables' because they are used in savoury rather than sweet cooking. The tomato, though technically a fruit, is often used as a vegetable, and a bean pod is also technically a fruit. The term 'vegetable' is more generally used of other edible parts of plants, such as cabbage leaves, celery stalks, and potato tubers, which are not strictly the fruit of the plant from which they come. Occasionally the term 'fruit' may be used to refer to a part of a plant which is not a fruit, but which is used in sweet cooking: rhubarb, for example. So a tomato is the fruit of the tomato plant, but can be used as a vegetable in cooking.

The key to growing quality tomatoes is saving the seed from the most perfect, ripe tomatoes on your plant. I usually choose the last tomatoes of the season for seed saving, allowing them to fully mature on the vine. When the skin yields to a small amount of pressure, the tomato is dead-ripe and should be harvested. You can squeeze the seeds out of the fruit, or cut it open and scoop out the seeds. (That way you can eat the rest!) Then take a teaspoon, collect 10-12 seeds on the tip and dump them on a plain index card. Smear them around so the seeds are separated and leave the card in an airy place to dry. The tissue and juice that cling to the seeds will help glue them to the index cards. When they are thoroughly dry, seal the cards in a plastic baggie or screw-top jar, and store in a cool, dark location. Next spring, when you're ready to plant, you can gently peel the seeds off the cards. Be sure to write the name of the tomato on each card so you'll know what you're planting the following year!

Peppers should be fully ripe before harvesting them for seed saving. If you're growing green peppers, they should be of fully ripe size and color; if you're growing red peppers, they should be of fully ripe size and color for their variety. There are no specific treatments for successfully saving pepper seeds. Allow the seeds to thoroughly dry before enclosing them in a plastic bag and storing them in a cool, dark place over the winter months.

Best wishes with your seed saving projects!

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