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Results growing seeds from hybrid tomatoes: an anecdote (not mine) about Sungold after 4 generations

 
gardener
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I had a lot of fun on my recent trip to Portland.  I got to two farmers markets, including the big one on the PSU campus, and my aunt and uncle and I basically ate very little but fresh produce for about a week.  They are from Juneau (where you can't buy a decent tomato ever and need a greenhouse and a green thumb to grow one) and of course I'm too rural here to have ready access to anything nice I don't grow myself.  So we pigged out.

But I also brought home a lot of fruits and seeds from unfamiliar varieties of things.

My aunt bought two pints of a very small, very orange, ludicrously sweet and fruity cherry tomato.  It matches online descriptions of Sungold in every respect except being smaller than the 1" size usually mentioned in the Sungold description.  These were no more than half that big.  (If anybody has a suggested ID for a tiny Sungold clone, I'd be happy to hear it.)  

Needless to say I saved seeds.  But tonight I was researching, trying to figure out if I could ID the variety and so forth.  Once I settled on Sungold as a possible culprit, I researched that variety; and immediately discovered that true sungolds are hybrids -- although half a dozen semi-stabilized open-pollinated lines seem to exist in commerce as well.  

Mostly because I was curious about parentage, I clicked through to a lot of Sungold search results.  All I found on parentage is that the Japanese company that originally bred the Sungolds isn't talking, and that one website reports a speculation that one parent is the Brandywine heirloom -- which seems implausible.

But everyone seems to agree that Sungold is an F1 hybrid.  This don't scare me much; I'm happy to plant seeds from hybrids I like, because they obviously contain genetics I like.  But I was curious what results other people have gotten planting seeds from their Sungolds.

Of course our very own Joseph Lofthouse popped up as a prominent search result for me:

I grew about 72 F2 sungold plants last year. About ten percent of the fruits were red instead of orange (cross pollination or segregation?). One plant of the 72 had exerted stigmas. The size of the fruits varied from a little smaller than F1 to a bit larger.



Another substantial result, though, was something I just wanted to share. If this was posted on Permies, it would be a three-apple post for sure.  Fellow by the name of Don Abbot wrote an article for Mother Earth News a few years ago shared four generations of his results growing out seeds from Sungold in this article Here Is What Happens When You Save Hybrid Seeds.  Long story short, he's getting good production, the tomatoes are still small, orange, and sweet, and a pint of them took second in a field of six at his county fair.  

The article is worth reading, I think, and perhaps sharing with people who tell you "you can't save seeds from hybrid plants."  

 
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I have de-hybridized Sungold tomato two times. I haven't recovered the flavor profile in any of the descendants. In one instance population size was 72 plants, which is a rather limited sample size for this kind of work.

The offspring of the dehybridization effort have been decent/average tomatoes. (No poisoned fruits.)


Can you save seeds from sungold tomato?

Growing seeds from hybrid tomatoes[

dehybridized Sungold tomato[


The second time, I was chasing exerted stigmas:



Based on the smell of Sungold foliage, and it's flowers attractiveness to pollinators, I speculate that an ancestor is Solanum habrochaites, a wild tomato. For what it's worth, I don't observe any indication, based on how the plants grow and segregate, that Brandywine was a recent ancestor to Sungold. I didn't recover any beefsteak-type fruits or flowers from the offspring.
 
Dan Boone
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Based on the smell of Sungold foliage, and it's flowers attractiveness to pollinators, I speculate that an ancestor is Solanum habrochaites, a wild tomato. For what it's worth, I don't observe any indication, based on how the plants grow and segregate, that Brandywine was a recent ancestor to Sungold. I didn't recover any beefsteak-type fruits or flowers from the offspring.



Thank you!  I also figured that Brandywine was an unlikely parent due to the lack of any similarities in fruit size, shape, or color.  I know that's not conclusive, but it's often the way to bet.  

It sounds like me planting two or three plants from these possible Sungold seeds is most likely to result in undistinguished cherry tomatoes of various colors.  I'll probably do it anyway -- undistinguished cherry tomatoes are my main crop around here. ;-)
 
pollinator
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I tried it several years ago and the 2nd generation were what looked like three different varieties, including pink/red cherry tomato, a medium sized pink tomato and a yellow cherry that tasted like cardboard. I saved some seeds from the sungold but didn't have to plant them because I got 20 voluntary plants the next year. It was the only tomato grown here so I know the volunteers were from the sungold. They were the first and only thing I planted that first year that we got enough trees cleared to grow something, after the land being forest for over 100 years.

I'm working on a high tunnel for next Spring and everything I read says use hybrids. Hated. I'm thinking we might do a little market gardening in a few years, if I can get the hang of the high tunnel and so I guess we'll go with the hybrids for that. I do want to find us some heirlooms that we like and start saving seed. I'll just grow those up by the house though.
 
pollinator
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Grumble grumble mystery hybrid tomatos. I feel your pain. I grew"mosaic mix" from a local greenhouse a few years ago. All 4 plants ended up being these delicious,very sweet, incredibly crack resistant, prolific, mild near white almost translucent cherry tomatoes. I loved them. one plant produced more weight of tomatos than my others combined. I saved seeds. 3 years later, still nothing compares to that first plant.  They are more yellow, not sweet, boringly mild and untomatoey. Still wonderfully crack resistant and prolific when they get started though, and will come up from seed outdoors in time to produce which is amazing. In better news, a yellow/orange cherry saved  from an uninspiring hybrid turned out spectacularly sweet and tomatoey this year...
 
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I know I'm late to the party, but here goes...

Many, MANY, moons ago I bought an amazing punnet of "Sungold" tomatoes from the supermarket. They were SO sweet and delicious, that I saved some seeds to see if I could grow my own.

And wouldn't you know... I could (and did)!

I germinated two or three seeds (retaining the rest as "insurance") and they grew really well. They were indeterminate, and continued growing ALL the way through our Adelaide winter (in a greenhouse). Granted, there were SOME issues with mildew if I forgot to airate the plants enough, but they were vigorous and healthy.

And EXACTLY the same as the punnet of fruit is purchased from the supermarket! Same colour, same size, same sweetness.

Not knowing enough about hybrids (or not knowing any better) I saved some seeds from these plants and next year, planted them out.

Again, perfect germination, same fruit as parent. No problems.

This continued for four successive generations until I just stopped growing them.

I should see if I can find those seeds (from a few years ago, now) and see what happens!

I never knew to expect different children, and I never GOT different children!

Perhaps if I could find them, it might be worthwhile growing them for sale/sharing/experimentation's sake?

Not knowing enough about hybrids etc
 
pollinator
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In my direct seeding experiments I've found the segregating offspring off Sungold to be very early at least in part and to be better tasting then all the ultra early reds.

Their penchant for exserted flowers is real but a little fickle. I found Sungold and Sunsugar at the hardware store soaking in a tray full of water with exserted stigmas on both. If grown near other tomatoes some new hybrids probably develop confounding the issue of what segregated from where.

There are a lot of sources and differently named selections from breeders who have tried to desegregate sungold to make an OP from it. Here is one from Brad Gates https://wildboarfarms.com/product/big-sungold-select/
 
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For what it is worth, another anecdote from a community garden farmer.  When I took over my current plot five years ago, I ended up with little yellow tomato volunteers throughout.  I also had some red cherry-sized volunteers, with good flavor but a tendency to crack.  After some research, I thought the yellows might be sungolds, but I did not save seeds.  Every year, they came back and mostly flourished, except for one crazy watery summer two years ago.  I have been getting a higher proportion of the reds every year since.  I saved seeds this summer, and tested a few in my seed growing set-up, and got an yellow result.  Vigorous, viney, sets flowers and fruit prolifically.  I have no idea what the originals were, and all of my other tomatoes are red romas or slicers.  I will start the seeds this summer and take notes on the volunteer plants as opposed to the saved seed ones.  I am curious about what is essentially a happy garden accident.  
 
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