Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Preparing for Next Year's Tomato Crop

In 1872,  Lewis Carroll wrote, in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--"

Today I want to talk about saving tomato seeds.

It's easy to go and buy new tomato seeds in the spring and start the plants yourself, or just buy the plants already growing, and ready to pop into your garden. But what if someone gives you a tomato that you can't find seeds for in a regular store, and nobody you know sells the plants?  I had this
happen to me a couple of years ago when I was handed a strange looking tomato to take home, and told that it was a heritage tomato called a Bullsheart.  It wasn't round like most tomatoes I was used to seeing, but more elongated, with a pointy bottom.  Kind of like a Roma, but much bigger.  I found it tasted better than any of the other six varieties that I grew that year, and decided to save the seeds.

Tomato seeds are coated in a gelatinous substance and you have to go through a little procedure before you can dry them out for the
following year.  I cut the tomato in half, around the equator, not end to end, so that it was easy to get at the seeds. I scooped them into a jar, and added an inch of water, then covered the jar, and waited a few days.  The gel dissolved and the good seeds sank to the bottom of the jar. Then I carefully scooped all the stuff that was floating on top out of the jar, and drained what was left through a fine siv. I rinsed the seeds with fresh water until they were nice and clean.  They were then dumped out onto a coffee filter and left to dry several days.

I have planted the seeds I've saved for the past couple of years and am happy to report that this year these plants produced better than any of my other varieties, and I still like their flavour best of all.

Last year I got them planted a bit late, and ended up with a tomato that wasn't ripe by the time the frost came along. I brought it in and kept it until it ripened, holding my breath, afraid it wouldn't or that the seeds would not be viable.  This year I made sure I got them planted in plenty of time, and I'm quite pleased with my self and the results.  I have already started to save the seeds from this years crop, and thought perhaps, even if you didn't get some strange tomato from a friend or a farmer's market, you might like to try it too.

Hmmmm......one of the vendors at a local farmer's market does seem to have a variety of heritage tomatoes.  I should go see if there is something else there I'd like to try this process with.

I may need to dig a large garden next year.

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