Heirloom Tomatoes in a Birdseye Maple Bowl

by projectbuddy

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One of my special joys of vegetable gardening is growing heirloom tomatoes. I search through a stack of catalogs, carefully select varieties to try (particularly with odd-sounding names), give them a try for a year or two, and then decide whether or not to save their seeds.

In reading reviews of different tomatoes provided by others, it seems that some tomatoes are just better suited for some areas than others. Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, and Boxcar Willie all got great review in the seed catalogs and online review but did not produce well in my Tidewater Virginia garden.

When I find a tomato that I like, I collect the seeds from the best plants and save them for planting the next year. This hopefully yields better tomatoes each year that are better suited to growing in my area.

Some unintentional cross-pollination has occurred with my heirloom tomatoes. In fact from my last remaining saved seeds of my Gardener’s Delight variety, there were no “true” plants. These seeds were from the year that I planted them with the Violet Jasper tomatoes and Jaune Flamme tomatoes. They or had a slight striping or took on the orange-yellow color. Fortunately, these are a popular variety and I can buy new seeds next year and begin again.

One tomato variety that I have a special fondness for is called Red Star because when you slice it, the slice have a star shape. It seems to be changing gradually over time. Each year, the ridges are slightly less pronounced and the slices are less like a star, but the taste is still great! These seeds have been unavailable in the catalogs for the past few years, and so unless I continue growing them and saving their seeds, I will be unable to begin again with them.

My advice here is that if you are saving heirloom seeds from tomatoes or any other vegetable, keep your varieties well-separated to avoid cross-pollination. If you have only limited space, maybe try alternating varieties from year to year since saved seeds will still sprout and grow after remaining dormant for two to three years with proper storage.

Although I truly believe that none of these new cross-pollinated varieties will make tomato history or become the foundation of a vast tomato-growing empire, it is nice to imagine what they may taste like when it’s finally time to start harvesting them and what odd-sounding names I might give them.

This year has been relatively good one weather-wise with the only annoyance being a family of chickadees who have learned to do acrobatic maneuvers to eat my best salad-sized tomatoes. The heirloom tomatoes in this photograph were harvested into this Birdseye maple bowl before the chickadees got their eyes on them!

this photograph was taken July 2013.