This year I started 6 different varieties of tomato. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough room to plant all of the plants, and by this time I’ve forgotten which plants are which. I’ll know better when the fruit starts to ripen - I planted red, orange, and yellow varieties, as well as a couple of paste varieties. I have 35 plants growing right now.
I have been reading a lot of interesting threads, mostly by Joseph Lofthouse and R Ranson, about plant breeding, dehybridizing hybrids, seed saving, and general garden resilience. I finished reading Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener (twice), and am pretty excited about the possibilities of saving my own seeds while selecting for the traits that will make them not only delicious, but also able to produce prolifically in my growing conditions, and withstand pest, weather, and disease pressures. I have read Seed to Seed a couple of times; and Carol Deppe's Breed Your Own Vegetables is next on my purchase list. Oh, and I just downloaded Raoul A. Robinson's Return to Resistance, so I'll be diving into that soon as well.
Since this is the first year I’ve grown here in this climate and ’soil', and the garden is extremely new, there has been no real bug pressure, and no weeds to deal with. But the season isn’t over yet, and I’ll be watching closely to see which of my tomatoes fair the best this year. (You can read about my new garden here: http://www.permies.com/t/56720/projects/garden-fence-finally-finished-rainbows )
One of the things I did this year was look for tomato varieties that are said to be less acidic. This is something that I’d enjoy in a tomato. The acidic ones are good for some things, but I like a nice sweet one with less acid for fresh eating. So we’ll see what I get from the varieties I’ve planted.
As Joseph Lofthouse suggests, I’ve been looking for the types of flowers on the tomatoes that have open anthers and a projecting stigma. And it just so happens that I have a variety that has just those qualities: larger flowers, with anthers that are open, or partially open. Most of these flowers are on the same variety of tomato plant (I think), but there are some on other varieties that have these qualities in varying degrees, so there may be some crossing going on. I often see bees in there doing their thing, so hopefully they have spread some pollen around to the different plants.
One of the things I noticed on the plants with the flowers with open anthers is that some of the developing fruits are oddly shaped, have an odd little bit poking out of them, or are like Siamese twins - joined at the stem end, and then splitting in two from there. (See images below.) I’ve noticed that some of the flowers are ‘double’ as well - two anther cones in one flower. I’ve noted this on a few different plants of the same variety. I’ll have to wait and see what happens when the fruits ripen, but they look healthy enough, just a little odd. I don’t think this is a trait I would like to have in tomatoes I am growing for market, as many people want their veggies to be ‘pretty’, but I won’t mind eating them as long as they taste good.
Anyway, an interesting project to start in my new garden, with my new knowledge, and my interest in having a resilient and healthy home and market garden.
Here are some photos of my tomato flowers and developing fruits. Now I need to get out there with my colored surveyor’s tape and marker and tag some of the fruits that I want to save for seed . . .
That fused blossom trait is something that I see most commonly on the first few flowers that a tomato plant makes. Then it settles down to making normal flowers. The fruits derived from fused blossoms tend to be funky...
Thanks, Joseph. You've inspired me to get going on this adventure of saving all my own seeds. So, thanks for that, and for all the information you share so freely.
I have just gotten into Raoul A. Robinson's Return to Resistance, and WOW! What an eye opener it is. Very exciting stuff, and written in a way that is pretty easy to understand. Great stuff.
Along with my tomato seed saving, I'll be letting at least a couple of plants of each thing I've grown in my garden this year set seed to be saved. I have to start somewhere, and because I have used at least 2 different sources of seed for most of the plants I'm growing, there is the potential for at least some crossing. But at the very least, I may not have to spend as much money each year on seed, if I am able to save enough seed, and keep it viable. I am quite happy to experiment, and hope that next year I'll have more room to try out the saved seed to see what I get, while planting the main market garden area with seed that I know will grow what I want. So, I'll be having the two projects going on at the same time - building up my market garden, and breeding plants to create landraces that grow well in my conditions.
I'm sure there will be mistakes made along the way, and that's why I'm glad I'm starting now while I still have access to buying seeds. Eventually, there may not be safe seed to buy, or it might not be affordable, so by starting now I might be ahead of the game. This makes me feel much more secure. Plus, it's really fun!
Those photos are so beautiful - I just love going into the greenhouse and nosing through the tomato plants, just so my arms smell like that for a little while
I saved seeds last year from my brandywines, and they actually dried pretty well, but I've also heard that some people directly plant moldy tomatoes - something I wish we had the growing season for here.
Eager to see an update - tomatoes in the mountains are tricky, but I love them too much not to try!
Hi Anne; I didn't buy all Heirloom, but they are all open pollinated. I bought what was available to me at the time. I have a yellow, an orange, a red early something or other, a Roma, and one yellow cherry - about 5 of each plant, except for the yellow of which I think there are 8. I like yellow tomatoes best; they're so sweet and delicious, and a little less acidic. Next year I will get lots more yellow varieties, as I think that will be my specialty tomato. Should be fun to see if I can get a yellow and a red landrace going!
For saving seed, I'm doing both fermenting, and just rinsing and drying. I'd like to see if there is a difference when I plant them next year.
Hey Destiny; I hear ya! I love crawling around in the toms and getting that lovely smell on me (plus all that crazy yellow pollen). And right now, after our wicked wind storm the other day, I am literally crawling around in them! The wind blew them all to hell - but they're still covered in tomatoes, and growing happily.
On Sunday the Natural Food Co-op phoned and asked if I had any tomatoes, as they were out, and everyone seemed to want tomatoes. I was able to whip out to the garden and pick 9 pounds of tomatoes and zip them over to them. It was very satisfying. So that's my new super power.
I had volunteer tomatoes in my herb spiral this spring. I had to move most of them, as there is only so much room there - but it was exciting to see them. I left one there, just to see if the fruit was as nice as last year. It is. It was the little yellow cherry one. Yum.
Since this is the first year for the main garden I'm letting lots of things go to seed so I'll have lots of surprises next year. The lettuces (3 kinds) are going to seed right now, and there will also be the tomatoes, broccoli, parsley, cilantro, basil, summer savory, and borage. I also like to bury the last big zucchini, just for the fun of watching all those zucchini plants leap out of the ground in the spring! I've planted all the same kind of zucchini, so the volunteers next year should be viable.
Thanks for the interest! I'll do a proper write up of the seed saving, with photos, soon!