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As farmers’ markets wind down, many of us want to preserve the bounty of this year for the next. Why not save save seeds from your last tomatoes so you can grow them yourself next year?

1)    Make sure to save the seeds from an open-pollinated or heirloom tomato. These seeds will reliably reproduce the “parent plant.”

2)    Choose a ripe, disease-free tomato; one past being edible is best.

Heirloom Tomato Weekend_RJC8698

3)    Cut the tomato ‘around the equator’ and squeeze out the seeds and ‘goo’ in to a strainer over the kitchen sink. Run cold water over and use your fingers to try and separate the ‘goo’ from the seed.

Heirloom Tomato Weekend_RJC8715

4)    Knock the strainer on a paper plate lined with a coffee filter, dislodging the seeds from the strainer.

5)    Label the filter with the tomato variety and let dry which could take up to three weeks. The top of the refrigerator is a great place for this.

tomato seeds in envelope_RJC6138at

6)    When dry, scrape the seed in to an envelope labeled with the variety and the date for storage. If the seeds stick to the coffee filter, simply fold the whole thing up and store in the envelope. The filter itself can be planted; it will disintegrate.

7)    Store your heirloom tomato seeds in a cool dry place indoors. I like to put them in my top desk drawer.

8)    Seeds have varied life expectancies. Tomato seed is viable for 4-10 years.

9)    Check back in late winter for a blog post about a simple germination test checking to see if your seed is viable.

Mark your calendars for the Second Annual Seed Swap on February 23, 2013. For more information on seed saving visit our web site.

Garden scientist Nyree Zerega shows us the breadfruit tree we have planted in the Tropical Greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden and talks about her research to find the relatives of this under-utilized plant. Then Mary McLaughlin from Trees That Feed tells us about her work to feed hungry people by planting these trees in tropical regions. For more information on Dr. Zerega’s research, click here. For more information on the Trees That Feed Foundation, visit www.treesthatfeed.org.

Yesterday, we unveiled our collaboration with Kraft Foods to build a corporate garden that provides fresh produce to area food banks. Angela Mason, Director of Community Gardening, tells us how the Kraft Foods Garden in Northfield, IL came to be in such a short period of time. Windy City Harvest and Cook County Boot Camp graduates will maintain the garden. Fourteen thousand pounds of produce will be given away to area food banks. For additional information on the program, visit http://chicagobotanic.org/windycityharvest.

Students from the Green Youth Farm in North Chicago prepare lunch in the kitchen in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden. Each Tuesday, a crew from the farm in North Chicago or the farm in North Lawndale prepare lunch for both farms to enjoy in a picnic shelter near the farm in North Chicago. In addition to learning how to grow, harvest and sell the produce on the farm, the students learn how to cook and eat food with fresh ingredients. For more information and recipes, visit chicagobotanic.org/greenyouthfarm/recipes.