It turned out to be one of those eureka moments. I recognized the email address, but I hardly dared open it in case the message was gloomy. I needn’t have worried – the news was good, and I felt like a proud parent.
I have been a plant agony aunt for for many’s a year, dishing out gardening advice by letter or email. Each week I receive a bundle of letters from perplexed gardeners who are worried about all sorts of plant problems.
John had originally emailed me about a year ago. His was quite a short question.
‘Can you please advise me? I have grown delicious ‘plum’ tomatoes this year, and would like to save some seed from them for sowing next year. How do I do it?
Scoop out the seeds and gel, and place them in a glass jar. Make up a small solution of washing soda in water (1 part soda to 10 parts water) and cover the seed and gel with an equal amount of this mixture. Label the jar, and place it somewhere warm.
After two to three days, a fungal mat should have formed on the top.
If it hasn’t appeared within four days, then you’ll have to dump it all, and start again! Once this dense mat has formed, tip the jar onto its side and trickle water in slowly. Do not stir, but let the mat float away. Rubbish, germs, disease spores and infertile seed will be in the mat, and the fertile tomato seeds will remain on the bottom.
Rinse these thoroughly through a sieve and dry naturally on a piece of kitchen roll and leave to dry for a day or two on this paper. When dried out put into an airtight container and into the fridge.
To cut a long story short – this recent email announced the arrival of a healthy crop of tomatoes. I felt so proud, and I immediately asked for a photo. John was as pleased as Punch, and I continued to smile about these new-born tomatoes for days. It was a-l-m-o-s-t as good as having done it myself.
By the way, now is a good time to try this for yourself!