Thursday, April 01, 2010
Tomato Seedling Progress Report
This year, I’m growing fourteen tomato varieties from seed and so far everything is right on schedule. The tomato plants are looking like the tiny plants they are, just beginning to show their first true sets of leaves. But there is one German variety, Reilooflirpa, that is growing at an incredible rate.
I’ve honestly never seen anything like it. These tomato plants are well beyond just growing their first true leaves. They are big plants now! In fact, these tomato seedlings are so different from the other tomato seedlings that a few days ago I called my local cooperative extension service to see if they had ever heard of a tomato growing this fast. The nice people at the cooperative extension service did some further checking and finally put me in touch with a professor of olericulture (the science of growing vegetables) at Purdue University.
The professor sent me an email and asked me to send pictures. After receiving the pictures, he called me and asked if he could personally come to see these tomato plants and take at least one of them. He said he thought that somehow in the packet of seed I got, there were some seeds for a tomato variety that grows nearly ten times faster than other tomatoes. He explained that they’ve been looking through seed banks for decades for these seeds after reading about these “super” plants in some of the herbals written in the 15th and 16th centuries.
I didn’t really believe him, but then he gave me some references including Gerard’s Herbal in which the herbalist John Gerard (1545 – 1611) wrote,
“…there is believed to be a group of plants that groweth with a speed unliketh any that haveth been seen, whereas a gardner can groweth two or three or more crops in the same expanse of time as one would groweth a singular crop. If thou findeth these plants, thou should cherisheth and guardeth them, lest they fall into the wrong hands…”
He further explained that within the genome (the genetic code) of these plants, they believe they will find the key to controlling the rate of plant growth. If they can figure out that key, they can literally unlock the potential in many other vegetable crops, including lettuce, spinach, and zucchini, to grow so fast that in the time we would normally get one crop to mature, we can get three or even four crops to grow and produce. (Does the world really need a faster growing zucchini?)
I told him he could take all of them, because frankly, once I found out what was going on, it made me nervous to have them growing in my sunroom. He came yesterday and took all but one of these tomato plants, plus the left over seeds, after assuring me it would be safe for me to grow it. In fact, he encouraged me to grow this tomato plant, save some seeds from it, and then see if I can grow a second crop yet this year from those seeds. I can send him my data and he’ll include it in his research.
This tomato experiment is obviously going to make this the most exciting vegetable gardening season yet! I’m surely going to achieve a personal best for earliest tomato of the season and be a part of making some real gardening history. I fully expect to pick a first tomato by Mother’s Day in mid-May, if not before.
I’ll keep you posted on how this “super tomato” grows, and how my other thirteen varieties measure up to it.
The complete list of tomatoes I am growing this year…
Amana Orange – I hope it is as big as a refrigerator, and orange.
Amish Paste – maybe I’ll take up canning this year?
Black Cherry – a small cherry variety but it tastes like a big tomato.
Gardener’s Delight – for eating in the garden.
German Johnson – old fashioned goodness, reminds me of my grandmother.
Paul Robeson – why not?
Pink Ponderosa – got a free package of these.
Purple Calabash - a purplish colored tomato.
Red Beefsteak – good on BLT’s.
Reilooflirpa – the fast grower!
Reisetomate – just seemed too fun to pass up.
Ruby Queen – after all, the tomato is the queen of the vegetable garden.
Stupice – Nature’s Crossroads made it sound so good.
Trusty - bred for 70 years in Indiana!
What tomato seedlings do you have growing on this lovely first day of April? Do any of yours seem to be growing at a faster rate than you’d ever believe? Is anyone else buying Reilooflirpa tomatoes this year?
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Update: Thanks to all for allowing me to have some fun on April Fool's Day. Click on the years above to see other April Fool's Day posts and watch out for next year!