Skip to main content

Heirloom Tomatoes

Food that you nurtured from seed to harvest always taste better than anything you can buy in the store. This most certainly holds true when speaking of tomatoes.

I am almost embarrassed to admit how shocked I was the first time I ate a tomato out of my own garden. It was so full of flavor! In fact, I found much to my surprise, there were a number of different elements at play on my taste buds. It opened up a whole new world to me. I was no longer fooled by the bland, stiff, reproductions that sat under fluorescent lights at the supermarket. It has gotten to the point where, for the most part, I am willing to go without a tomato until they are ripe on the vine in my own plot. There are, of course, exceptions but I buy them in the store knowing full well what I am missing out on.

Over the years I have developed a few favorites but am always on the lookout for new and interesting varieties. A favorite in our household is the Lemon Drop cherry tomato from Seed Savers Exchange. We also love Gardeners Delight which is a plump red cherry tomato. Though cherries seem to do best in our garden we also have enjoyed Cherokee Purple, Speckled Roman and Mortgage Buster over the years.

For the most part tomatoes are a very hardy plant. We do start some plants on a sunny window sill in late February on occasion but we also buy starter plants from the local greenhouses as well if something unusual is available. The key to any successful garden is the soil. Healthy soil, healthy plants, it really is that simple. We use rabbit and chicken manure along with green manure from our compost bins to feed our soil.

When the tomato plant is old enough to go outside you want to start slowly by hardening it off. Simply do this by putting the plants outdoors for short periods of time, 20 minutes or so to begin with, and gradually increase it over the course of a week. It allows the plant to strengthen its roots and not get totally decimated by the spring sun.

Once the plants are ready to be put in the ground you want to bury your plant all the way up to the first set of leaves because believe it or not the entire stem will send out roots making for a stronger and more productive plant. Also make sure to properly space your plants. Nothing creates mold quicker on tomatoes than poor circulation.

Eventually your plants will provide a bumper crop of tomatoes. At this point it is worth saving seed from the healthiest and earliest specimens. Simply cut open the tomato and scoop the seed mass into a warm glass of water. Allow it to ferment for 3 days. Once it begins to clearly separate pour the water through a strainer and most of the "goop" should be off the seeds. If not casually remove it with a paper towel. Allow the seeds to dry on a plate for a few days and then place them in an envelope that you will store in a cool and dark place. A piece of advice, make sure you label the seeds, you will not remember one set of seeds from another 8 months later!

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here 


Popular posts from this blog

Swedish Flower Hen

The rare Swedish Flower Hen has a unique story. Called Skånsk blommehöna(Bloom Hen) in their native country of Sweden this landrace breed was thought to be extinct in the 1970's. (The term landrace refers to the fact that S.F.H.'s were free to develop for nearly five hundreds years without interference from man, so to speak). But in the late 1980's the Swedish Poultry Country Club located isolated flocks in the villages of Esarp, Tofta and Vomb. The gene bank that was eventually created by the S.P.C.C. was successful and there are approximately 1,300 Swedish Flower Hens currently in Sweden.

While enthusiast of rare breeds continue to work hard to increase the numbers it is painfully obvious why they slowly fell out of favor nearly 100 years ago. Though rare and visually stunning they cannot equal the number of eggs some of the top laying hens produce in a peak yearly cycle. Swedish Flower Hens average around 150 eggs over the course of 12 months. Compare that with the nea…

In Winter

I enjoy winter when it arrives at the homestead. Though the gardens are long since dormant there is still plenty to do.The rabbits and the chickens need constant care. A couple of times a day I have to break ice from the animals water and make sure they have enough warm bedding.

I don't mind though. No matter how cold it gets. There is poetry in the garden during summer. Birds sing with triumphant melody. Soft summer rains baptize new growth. But the winter features a more solitary form of art. For the most part there is a resonating silence that is a canvas for the occasional temperamental gust of wind and snow. These same squalls force the breathe from my lungs and scatter the frozen mist before my eyes. Then, once again, there is silence. As any good steward I try not to disturb this peace. If anything, I try to move unnoticed among it.

When it is cold enough the trees will produce an individual moan as they threaten to splinter in the darkness of the woods. They all have their…

The Land of Plenty

The idea that I am about to present to you is certainly nothing new. Wonderful organizations such as Ample HarvestPlant a Row for the Hungry and countless food banks and pantries across the country have been confronting the issue of hunger in our communities head on for some time.

Food insecurity is a cornerstone of the human condition. A little research will lead you to discover a long history of charity in opposition. For example, the seventh century Irish Benedictine monk St. Fiacre who was a master herbalist eventually settled in France and practiced a reverse tithe by keeping 10% of his harvest while giving away 90% to those less fortunate.

Life is complicated, as we all know. There are no easy answers to any of the problems that plague our society but there are some very simple issues that could be addressed that could in turn have a ripple effect on a number of other dilemmas such as poverty, health and even violence.

According to the USDA 40% of the $161 billion dollars’ (yo…