Only the bathroom does not have containers of tomatoes stacked in every nook and cranny, and that’s only because it’s a small room and opening doors takes up all floor space.
This space crunch is especially true after my effort to give away about 200 lbs. of unripe tomatoes failed and I had to bring in all containers out of the cold. It seems that virtually nobody wants to deal with green tomatoes, even when they are free – and I certainly don’t have the time to deal with so many more.
I have to sidle sideways, like a crab, to get from point A to point B in every other room. I’m not always successful in my efforts to not knock over or step on tomatoes. And whenever I can, I keep all windows open and fans blowing. Else there is that overwhelming vinegar-like smell, mold spores everywhere, along with abundant sneezing and sniffling.
I keep running out of empty plates, empty containers (even though I have hundreds), and especially lids.
It feels like I am working fast and efficiently, yet I seem to be almost unable to keep up with the ripening tomatoes. Predictably (I suppose), I timed myself. Working virtually non-stop, it took me 3 hours, 35 minutes to process 15 of the larger containers of fermenting tomatoes. That’s nearly 15 minutes per batch – yikes! On another day, counting time off for eating, processing seed orders, taking naps, etc., I calculated that I can extract seeds from about 67 batches per day (meaning a 24-hour period; with highly irregular sleep, I’m as likely to be processing tomatoes at 4 a.m. as I am at 4 p.m., or 7 a.m., or 11 p.m.).
Preparing tomatoes for fermenting (taking photos, weights, notes, tasting, cutting, crushing, etc.) is a little faster, about 82 batches per day. And packaging seeds after they have dried is even faster – about 30 batches per hour. So, estimating that I devote about 14 hours per day to this project, this all works out to around 25 minutes to process 1 batch of tomatoes. Of course this is all post-harvest and pre-database management and excludes processing photos, field notes, etc.
This works out to about 34 batches processed per 14-hour day. Since I will likely have at least 2,000 batches of tomatoes processed for seeds before this project is done, this works out to 59 days (14-hour days to be clear) devoted exclusively to processing for seeds. “Get a life” I say to myself…
Here are a few photos of the process in action
Extracting Seeds from Fermented Tomatoes
I have taken well over 10,000 photos of tomatoes, etc. so far this year, and I’m very far from finished taking photos, let alone naming and processing them. To be honest, I still have some huge batches of photos dating back to August, 2017 that I have not yet fully named!
Here’s a view of the original exclosure, established in 2020, after hard frost did it’s business a couple of weeks ago. And weeds did exceptionally well this year, such as this Russian Thistle (tumbleweed) – how many hundreds of millions of seeds were dropped onto the garden space this year as a result of adequate rainfall and far-from-adequate efforts to remove weeds before flowering?
The indoor microdwarf tomato project is faltering. The LED lights are not intense enough and there are not enough of them. Maximum temperature achieved is around 70°F with lights on for several hours. But with no heat in the house, temperatures can drop to the 50-55° range when the lights have been off for several hours. This too-cool-for-tomatoes phenomenon will just get worse as winter deepens.
Nevertheless, some tomato ripening is happening, 79 days from seed sowing. I’m also trying to give the two dwarf pomegranate fruits all the time that then need to produce viable seeds.
True Potato Seed (TPS), variety Blue Velvet update: Very low yield of seeds (about 35 total) and tubers. They need more time, more space, more compost, more pollen, and more commitment. Unfortunately, I will not have any seeds of this variety to offer this year, though I did try – see earlier posts this summer.
Another delectable fig consumed, with three more to go.
Still lots of seed extraction needed from melons, squash, cucumbers, beans, etc. Yes, I still have rotting squash from 2020 from which I have not extracted seeds. I should feel so much shame… Peppers were a near total bust this year.
Here’s a watermelon, given to me second-hand from a local farmer, from which I was hoping to extract seeds. Alas, it was a seedless variety! I’m tempted to launch into a tirade about multi-national corporations controlling food supplies and seed availability; but in the interest of time and fatigue, I’ll restrain – for now.
I’m also tempted to publish lists of tomato varieties from which I have saved seeds or am in the process of saving seeds for this year. But at this point, such lists would be partial and inaccurate. So that too will have to wait. I will get such lists published ASAP.
In the meantime, here is the most current list of more than 2,400 varieties of tomatoes for which seeds are available now – and thank you for your support for helping with the preservation and propagation of heirloom varieties from around the world!