Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Starting Tomato Seeds

I started my garden seeds last week. We usually set plants out at the end of May, and I've found that the less time they spend as seedlings in the house, the better they do. This year I ordered three varieties of tomato seeds from Seed Savers' Exchange.

Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. When people grow and save seeds, they join an ancient tradition as stewards, nurturing our diverse, fragile, genetic and cultural heritage.

While I have mixed feelings about rhetoric like this, I prefer to save garden seeds whenever possible. The commercial outlets paradoxically make very limited selections available to those of us in rural areas, and the last few years, most of the seedlings I've bought have been mislabeled. Instead of broccoli, I get cabbage, instead of Roma tomatoes, I get cherry tomatoes, etc. The seeds I save have a better germination rate, and I like to know what I'm getting.

When seed shopping, the temptation is to try too many new things at once. With great effort, I limited myself to three new tomato varieties this year. That's probably still too many experiments for our garden. I tried two "sauce-style" tomatoes, and a locally famous variety I've heard about, but never found before.

Amish Paste Tomato
Amish Paste Tomato. Heirloom discovered in Wisconsin. Produces 6-8 oz. red fruits that are oxheart to almost teardrop-shaped. Meaty fruits are juicy and have really outstanding flavor. Good for sauce or fresh eating. Indeterminate, 85 days from transplant.
Romanian Spitze Tomato
Spitze Tomato. Romanian paste tomato that is great for making sauce, but sweet and flavorful enough to eat fresh. Good set of red fruits, 2-3" at the shoulders by 4-6" long. Nice for processing. Indeterminate, 80 days from transplant.
Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato
Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato. Absolutely gorgeous slicing tomato. Sweet juicy 4-6" flattened fruits about 1 pound each. Beautiful yellow fruits are streaked with red on the blossom end. Heavy producer. Introduced to SSE in 1994 by SSE member Jerry Lee Bosner of Ohio. Indeterminate, 85 days from transplant.

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