…and let’s face it, true love is overrated. (Sorry, sweetie!)
These are coming out of the garden right now:
These are the eating tomatoes, the ones I’m not trying to breed. They’re mostly newer varieties, mostly from Wild Boar Farms. I’m very fond of Brad Gates’ work. In addition to breeding beautiful tomatoes, and tasty tomatoes, he’s also breeding tomatoes for extreme conditions – hot, cold, drought, etc. – in anticipation of climate change. I’m all for anything that will result in continued tomato production in a time of turmoil. Particularly such delicious tomatoes!
Varieties include Sweet Cream, Berkeley Tie-Dye, Sungold, Kaleidescope Jewel, Sunrise Bumblebee, Pink Bumblebee, the tried-and-true Brandywine, Purple Calabash, Cascade Lava, and Brad’s Atomic Grape. Those are just the ones I recognize off the top of my head – there are undoubtedly others. A woman with forty or fifty kids can’t be expected to recognize all of them at first blush! At least, not if you’re me. I’ve never been great with names.
But of course these aren’t the real prizes. The real prizes (sorry, kids!) are the ones that don’t have names, only numbers – the ones that are part of my Fruity Mix breeding project. I grew out thirty-two plants from the three plants that bred true from the last year. Only five of the thirty-two produced tomatoes with the intense, wonderful flavor I was after, and here are an assortment of fruits from those:
I forgot to put in a dime for scale, but the image on my monitor as I type this is about real life scale. The smallest one is just under the size of a dime, and the biggest one is bigger than a nickel but well under the size of a quarter. They are (as originally described) a small cherry tomato, so this is getting back to the original variety. I’m not overly concerned about conservation (it’s flavor I’m after, not returning the variety to its roots), but it’s a sign that I’m on the right track.
I’m delighted to see that the yellow and orange colors have surfaced in this generation. Last generation all the tomatoes were red, and I was worried that the other colors were lost to posterity. However, pink flesh and yellow skin (which produces a red tomato) are both dominant genes, so if the Fruity Mix had gotten crossed to a homozygous-for-red tomato, all the offspring would necessarily have been red in the first generation. In the second generation, the other colors would start coming out as the recessive genes paired up, and I’m pleased to see that there were other colors lurking under the red. I got plenty of red tomatoes, but quite a few yellow and orange and even a red-and-yellow striped tomato! I have no idea where that one came from, but unfortunately the flavor wasn’t great, so I’m not going to grow out its offspring.
There are lots of tasty tomatoes among the 32 plants I grew, but only 5 or 6 have the intensely fruity flavor I’m breeding for. So I am saving seed from the tasty-but-not-Fruity ones (not sure why, maybe just because I’m a pack rat?), but next year I will only grow out seeds from the best Fruity lines. I don’t have time to pursue more than that.
The good news is that only a few fruits are enough to carry on the next generation of breeding, which means lots of tasty tomatoes to eat this year! I’m carrying a small container of them with me to Maryland – I’m flying out there today for a short visit (my esteemed spouse is holding down the fort at home), tomatoes and garlic in hand.
Judith Rhoades says