Tag Archives: potato seeds

How to Save True Potato Seeds

Take a moment to picture a person dressed in a white lab coat surrounded by stainless steel surfaces, glass beakers and test tubes.  I am not that person!  My goal is to make growing potatoes from true seeds easy and accessible to the home gardener.  Extracting TPS from potato berries can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.  I am aware of different methods of extraction that involve blenders, bleach, tri-sodium phosphate, fermentation etc…  I don’t use them.  Below are two methods of extraction that work for me.

Simple method (for just a few berries):

  1. Cut soft potato berry in half.
  2. Gently squeeze seeds and pulp on to a sheet of paper (construction paper works well).
  3. Push seeds and pulp around the paper with a knife (or another flat edge) until the paper soaks up the liquid from the pulp.
  4. Use your flat edge to separate the seeds from the remaining pulp.
  5. Spread out the seeds on another sheet of construction paper and let them dry for several days.
  6. Store seeds in a cool dry place.

Slightly more complicated method (for larger amounts of berries):

  1. Cut soft potato berries in half.
  2. Gently squeeze out seeds and pulp into a bowl that is half full of water.(Use your judgment to get the greatest amount of seed with the least amount of pulp.  If I have a lot of berries, I will leave straggling seeds in the berry to make separating seeds easier.)  Discard the berry skins.
  3. Break up the seeds and pulp as much as possible. Good seeds tend to sink and empty ones will float.
  4. Swirl the water in the bowl and let the seeds settle out. At this point, most of the seeds should be gathered at the bottom and the pulp will be suspended in the water.
  5. Slowly pour off the water while attempting to leave most of the seeds in the bowl.(If you are worried about losing too many seeds, you can pour the water into a strainer lined with a paper towel or coffee filter and rescue the seeds from there.  I don’t worry about it.  Pour slowly!)
  6. Dump the seeds on to a sheet of paper (again, construction paper works well).
  7. Push seeds around the paper with a knife (or another flat edge) until the paper soaks up the liquid.
  8. Spread out the seeds on another sheet of construction paper and let them dry for several days.
  9. Store seeds in a cool dry place.

I strongly recommend that you work with one variety of potato berries at a time and label the seeds as soon as you finish extracting them.  Keeping potato varieties separate is the best way to reproduce a successful result in the future.

Potato seeds are tiny compared to tubers!

Potato seeds are tiny compared to tubers!

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Potato Berries! Here is where it all begins…

Imagine the possibility of holding hundreds of pounds of potatoes in just one hand.  Sounds pretty incredible, doesn’t it?  But this is exactly why I am interested in growing potatoes from true seeds.  True potato seeds, or TPS, are small seeds that have tremendous potential for home gardeners.  Buying traditional potato seed tubers every year from online retailers is prohibitively expensive even before adding shipping costs.  With true seeds, you can grow a large number of potatoes with minimal upfront costs.  Interested yet?

Potato berries

Swelling with potential, these Yukon Gold potato berries are developing nicely.

Pictured above are the berries of a Yukon Gold potato plant.  Potato berries are the botanical fruit of the potato plant.  Similar to cherry tomatoes, the mature berries are full of seeds and gel.  The color, size and shape of potato berries will look different on each variety of potato.  Not all potatoes produce berries but many of them do.  True potato seeds are extracted from ripe potato berries.

So how can you grow some of your own true potato seeds?  It is pretty simple.  Purchase seed tubers of potato varieties that are known to produce berries.  Grow the potatoes in the traditional way and keep an eye out for little fruits that form after the potato blooms. (Since the weight of the berries can pull them out of sight under the potato foliage, I prefer to contain the developing berries in a loose, breathable mesh bag so that they will not get lost if they fall off the plant.  This is optional, if you choose to bag your berries, take care that the bag does not constrict their growth.)  At the end of the season, harvest the berries as well as the potato tubers.  Place the berries in containers that are labeled with the name of the potato variety that the berries came from.  The harvested berries will be pretty firm at first.  Store them indoors until they begin to soften and give off a noticeable scent of ripe fruit.  Softening the berries will take a few weeks or even months.  Once the berries are soft, it is time to extract the seeds.  The next post will discuss methods of extracting TPS.