- Abstract Background The metabolite content of a seed and its ability to germinate are determined by genetic makeup and environmental effects during development. The interaction between genetics, environment and seed metabolism and germination was studied in 72 tomato homozygous introgression lines (IL) derived from Solanum pennelli and S. esculentum M82 cultivar. Plants were grown in the field under saline and fresh water irrigation during two consecutive seasons, and collected seeds were subjected to morphological analysis, gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) metabolic profiling and germination tests. Results Seed weight was under tight genetic regulation, but it was not related to germination vigor. Salinity significantly reduced seed number but had little influence on seed metabolites, affecting only 1% of the statistical comparisons. The metabolites negatively correlated to germination were simple sugars and most amino acids, while positive correlations were found for several organic acids and the N metabolites urea and dopamine. Germination tests identified putative loci for improved germination as compared to M82 and in response to salinity, which were also characterized by defined metabolic changes in the seed. Conclusions An integrative analysis of the metabolite and germination data revealed metabolite levels unambiguously associated with germination percentage and rate, mostly conserved in the different tested seed development environments. Such consistent relations suggest the potential for developing a method of germination vigor prediction by metabolic profiling, as well as add to our understanding of the importance of primary metabolic processes in germination.