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I used to grow hundreds of tomato varieties. Call it a
labor of love. One of the popular seed mixes that I sold way back
was simply called "Main Crop Blend" which contained all purpose round
tomatoes. At 3" or so in size they could be used as slicers or
for sauce, juice and whatever. With a few dozen varieties in
the packet gardeners were sure to get at least a few tomato cultivars
that would grow well for them and be perfect for whatever they had in
mind. The mixes were put together each year from all the basic
round medium sized indeterminates I had on hand. I always advised
my customers to save the seed of the best of the mix in order to
develop the variety that succeeds for them and meets their high
expectations in a tomato.
In the last few years I've taken my own advice. I mixed up
some of my favorite tomatoes (mostly the all purpose kinds of the
1960's that I grew up with like Marglobe, Rutgers, Ace, Jubilee,
Arkansas and Pearson), and I've grown them all together and then saved
the seed all together. Over the years I've culled the ones that
crack, selected for the shape and firmness and flavor I like and slowly
the mix gets better (at least for me). I no longer save seed of
all of those dozens of tomatoes carefully labeling each one.
Instead I work with my blends. From time to time, I'll add a new
tomato. Hybrids like the pink Firebird F1 and Lemon Boy F1 were
added a while ago and have become more like the rest... open
pollinated. The mixture now acclimated to my garden is a bit
diverse, a bit wild, sometimes unexpected, but also a very satisfying
staple of my garden each year.
I maintain three open pollinated mixtures: 1) Reds, 2)
Golds 3) Pinks. These three work well for most of my tomato
<>TOMATO: STANDARD SLICERS
Great all-purpose medium sized slicing tomatoes. We grow separate
patches of red, pink and golden fruited tomatoes and select each color
type so that you can enjoy a long harvest of smooth, round fruit.
Yes, there will be variation and that will allow you a greater chance
to discover the tomato that performs best in your garden and has the
qualities that you want. Save the seed of your best
performers. Indeterminant for caging or ground culture.
Standard Tomatoes: Golds, Pinks and Reds
About Saving Tomato Seed
When I was a child, my mother saved seed in a shoebox so it was
understood that if I wanted seed for my small garden, I should do the
same. Usually she folded the seed into a paper napkin, sealed it with a
rubber band and then identified by writing, "Yellow Marigold" or
whatever, on the napkin with a ballpoint pen. For saving tomato seed, I
learned to squeeze the seeds onto the napkin, spread the gooey mass
out, then let it dry in the sun for a day or two and then roll it up
and band it. The next year I could tear little strips of napkin into a
sort of seed tape and plant it in a pot of soil to start my new tomato
plants. It worked fine in the home garden.
Producing seed commercially requires clean, disease free seed. To
save seed that rivals any commercial producer, squeeze the seed and
juices into a container. I leave it to ferment for about two
days. By then the liquid is frothy, pungent smelling and often there is
mold growing on the surface. From here I dump the mess into a larger
container and add water, slosh it around, let the seeds settle to the
bottom and then carefully pour the rest out. I'll do this once or twice
adding more water each time and at the end of the process the seeds
will be clean, free of the sticky gel and tomato pulp. Depending on the
amount of a variety of tomatoes you are processing you might use a pail
(a bushel of tomatoes) or a small plastic cup (for a few tomatoes).
The clean seed is dumped onto a screen or sheets of newspaper will do
and allowed to dry. Voila, classy, clean tomato seed. When I operated
the Long Island Seed Company, I would add a teaspoon of Chlorox bleach
to a quart of the last rinse water and let it set for 20 minutes. I
probably shouldn't have bothered since the fermentation process does a
nice job; I'm told, of destroying any seed borne pathogens that could
Sueeze the seeds and juice out. Make sauce from the spent
tomato. Ferment in an open jar 2 days.
Pour pungent fermented seed in a bowl and wash. Pour
floatable pulp out, good seed sinks, wash again.
Dump seeds out on newspaper or better yet, onto a screen to air
dry for a few days.
Fermenting Tomato Pulp
When you are fermenting your tomato seed, juices and the pulp that gets
in to the liquid you may think there must be another use for this
pungent bubbly liquid that the seeds have to be washed out from.
Actually, unless you visit homes in the tomato growing region of
Holland, it probably wouldn't dawn on you that there's another use for
the stuff. Some years ago I visited my niece and her husband in the
"glass city" part of Holland. He is a hydroponics tomato grower as many
folks in this region are. Johan and Andrea took me over to their
neighbors who had a little stove-top distillation unit steaming away.
Concentrated alcohol would drip out of one end into our little shot
glasses. Ah, Genneiva, the Dutch version of vodka. "So what goes into
the other end of the distiller as a source of the alcohol?", I asked my
hosts. They laughed as they pulled the sofa out from the wall. There
were carboy after carboy of fermenting squeezed tomatoes. They were
making tomato wine! Only tomato wine is pretty awful and you have to
drink so much to get drunk they explained. So what do you do when you
have so many tomatoes...