Nothing can beat the flavor of fresh, garden picked tomatoes, and it’s easy to grow your own. Often, though, store-bought tomatoes are hybrid fruits that do not have the maximum balance of sweet and acidic tomato flavor.
Can you grow seeds from store bought tomatoes? While it is possible to grow tomatoes from the seeds of a grocery-store tomato, it might not be the best choice or yield the most delicious tomato. Decide which types of tomatoes are right for your garden, and buy seeds or seedlings instead for better fruit.
To get the best tomato flavor, you have to buy tomato seeds that will yield the tastiest fruit. The tomatoes that you see year-round in grocery stores will be more flavorful when grown in your garden but will never compare to the characteristic flavor of heirloom tomatoes.
What are Hybrid Plants?
Hybrid plants are, quite simply, plants that are the combination of the fruits of two different tomato plants. Farmers breed hybrids for different reasons, and some corporate farms even have patents on certain varieties of tomato.
Hybrids tomato plants the likes of which you see in grocery stores, such as giant beefsteak and those perfect vine-ripened bunches, do not have a lot of tomatoey flavors because they are designed to grow big or to grow a lot of produce, and they sacrifice flavor in that process.
Designed to be easier to grow, to grow faster, to produce more fruit, to be naturally pesticidal, and to produce consistent-looking fruit, hybrid plants often lack the depth and nuance of flavor that a fresh heirloom tomato can deliver.
Hybrid tomatoes can be great. They are classic on fast-food burgers and sandwiches across the U.S. If you are looking to grow big perfect-looking tomatoes, then maybe that traditional beefsteak is the tomato for you.
The Issue with Growing Store Tomatoes
The biggest issue with growing store tomatoes is that you will not get the most flavorful plant from a store tomato. Also, some hybrid tomatoes are designed so that the seeds are small or to yield seedless fruit.
It is possible that you would accidentally buy a seedless tomato and then have no way to plant it. Even so, store bought tomatoes are often grown with pesticides or covered in wax. All of those chemicals reduce the health of the tomato’s seeds.
This has been mentioned, but store-bought hybrid tomatoes taste, well, underwhelming. They don’t pack that delicious balance of sweetness, savory, and acidity that most people want from a fresh tomato.
Hybrid tomatoes often have little flesh and a slimy texture. Farmers who can produce these tomatoes year-round sacrifice flavor and texture for the ability to grow a lot of sub-par tomatoes.
If you’re having visions of putting fresh tomatoes on salads, using them for sauces or purees or eating them fresh from the stalk, you will want to grow a tastier, heartier tomato.
Some tomato plants are also patented, so growing and then selling tomatoes from the seeds of a store-bought fruit could have legal repercussions in the U.S., should the right authority be notified.
What if You Still Want to Go for It?
If you still think that obtaining tomato seeds and growing tomato plants would be easiest to accomplish by buying tomatoes in a grocery store, then there are a few things to consider.
- Some grocery stores will carry nice tomatoes. Read the next section for the best types of tomatoes to purchase.
- Make sure that you have a plan for planting your tomato seeds. You don’t want to be caught with sprouted seeds (where this how-to ends) with no place to grow them.
- Tomato plants require a lot of sunlight and water, so prepare a sunny spot, and don’t forget the water.
- If you have a farmer’s market or a store that cooperates with one, you might go there for your tomatoes. Try to find plants that you know will succeed in your area.
- It is recommended that you start tomato plants in pots for six to eight weeks before the last frost in your area. Then, in late spring, you can transfer your sprouting plants into the soil.
- It is also possible to grow tomatoes hydroponically, as seen here. If you have limited space or have a hydroponic setup, you might try that route.
There are hundreds of varieties of tomato, and the grocery stores in your town will offer a good range. Be sure to envision how you will utilize the produce you grow when picking out tomatoes to extract seeds.
The best types of Store-Bought Tomatoes to Use
The most common and easily obtainable store-bought tomato to extract seeds from is the Roma tomato. While still a hybrid plant, this tomato is small, hearty, and packs in lots of acidic flavor.
As suggested above, if you can visit a local market, farmer’s market, or even a grocery store that partners with local farmers, you should be able to find locally grown, organic, or even heirloom tomatoes. These would be the best to purchase.
Heirloom tomatoes ripen in all different, beautiful colors. They can range from vibrant purple to the traditional orange-red, and some with yellow hues deliver maximum sweetness. They are often not perfectly round, but don’t be afraid of the unique beauties.
Many grocery stores now also carry organic produce. You might still be buying a hybrid plant, but the seeds of an organic piece of produce (which is what we are really after) will produce healthier plants.
The small varieties of tomato can also be satisfying and, in a private garden, can produce an impressive yield. Grape or cherry tomatoes might be a good way to go with a preference for organic or local produce.
Also, it can’t be stressed enough that your safest best when buying tomatoes both for cooking and for growing will be to buy local produce. This will ensure that you get the freshest and tastiest produce possible.
How to Get the Seeds
Once you have obtained your tomatoes, you will want to choose one or two to sacrifice, depending on how many plants you want to grow. Tomato seeds in most breeds are abundant, but you aren’t guaranteed that each seed will sprout.
One way to remove the seeds is to peel it and push the flesh of the fruit through a sieve or fine mesh so that the flesh falls through, and you are left with lots of tiny tomato seeds. You could also pull the seeds out with your fingers rinse the tomato flesh away with water.
Tomatoes can have 150-500 seeds per tomato, which seems like a massive amount. Sprout as many as you want; you can always discard some of the sprouts or even small plants as you plan the space or soil in which they will grow.
The seeds will need to be sprouted in a wet environment for 12-24 hours before you plant them into planters. One way to accomplish this is to wrap them in wet paper towels or cheesecloth, spraying them occasionally to make sure they stay wet.
Remember that each seed will turn into a full tomato plant but that some might not make it or even produce fruit. You will need to research and maintain the right nutrient levels in the soil that where you plan to grow your tomatoes.
Whether you are growing tomatoes for your family sandwiches, or use in for sauces and soups, be sure to choose the right tomatoes to deliver on deliciousness. Grocery-store tomatoes can be great, now that you know what to search for.