Tomato Seedling Progress Report

I’ve been growing my own tomato plants from seeds almost every year since 1987. Yes, there were a few years amongst those twenty plus years when I got lazy and bought tomato plants, but most years, I started my own plants from seeds. (Oops, I didn’t mean to imply that if you buy your tomato plants you are lazy. To each their own, right?)

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?

2006 2007 2008 2009

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!


  1. No super tomatoes here! We're growing Chocolate Cherry, Mortgage Lifter, Glacier (an ultra-early) and Principe Borghese. That's 6 plants of each variety. :-) How do you even have room for 14 varieties? Goodness. You wouldn't even have space for a super tomato!

  2. *cough cough* So, um, in the name of science... I can haz some zupr seeds? (see "lol cats" if that makes no sense) But on a more serious note, congrats! That's so amazing and I wish the best to you on your tomato endeavors and future propagation of this variety!

  3. wow, i'm anxious to hear more about your super-tomato seeds!

  4. Carol - That is really exciting to make such a discovery and to be able to "share" it with the scientific community. I hope you will grow & gather more seeds, and offer to your blog followers that we can join you in this experiment.

    I grow only the small cherry type tomatoes, since they start bearing early and often. Orange sungold, yellow pear, and this year some odd stripey green, yellow and purple ones - I gathered the seeds from a specialty pack of tomatoes which I bought in the grocery store.

  5. If I didn't know you better, I would think this was an April Fools wait, I do know you better - Is this and April Fools joke. 17 varieties LOL. I didn't see on the design a place for the farm stand. Good for you. Can't wait to taste are bring some to Buffa10, right?

  6. This is so exciting Carol...keep us updated... I have about 10 tomato seedlings up, we also purchased some plants as to stagger our growing season here.

  7. I thought you were going to say "April Fool," but you didn't. It's for real, I'll be watching.


  8. Interesting...and weird. I am excited to hear how this unfolds!

  9. Great Tomato gods! Happy April 1st my friend.~~Dee

  10. Don't have a lot of success starting seeds. But this year, I'm giving it another try and have 2 varieties of tomatoes going : San Marzano (for "sun" drying later and making sauce) and Balcony Beauty because I like to have cherry tomatoes right outside my back door to pop in my mouth. Also doing some spinach and mesclum lettuce mix.
    Hopefully your mystery tomatoe won't take over the house. Maybe it's called Jack in the Beanstalk variety.

  11. Wow....and that is a great big wow! How exciting to be involved in this. Thanks for sharing, looking forward to updates. And communication with a "professor of olericulture (the science of growing vegetables)",I never knew there was such a thing. This is exciting.

  12. Nice April Fool's post, Carol. Obviously your most believable 4-1 post yet!


  13. Very interesting variety. But I don't think it's German, more related to Pig Latin.

  14. Sort of a Through The Looking Glass kind of post! Early April is always so exciting at May Dreams Gardens.

  15. GAH! You have totally preyed on my ability to get excited about stuff like this! I swear, I am so gullible :P Good joke and nice 'mater name!

  16. I hope you plan on saving seeds and sharing them next April 1st.

  17. Love your tomato list, Carol - usually we have more than one in common, but only one in both lists is 'Paul Robeson' this year.

    Must warn you about the 'Reilooflirpa', however - read something about it in one of Philo's science journals... whatever you do don't let any of the seeds get in the compost! Along with the 10X growth factor they germinate at a 10X rate and are 10X as resistant to freezes.

    They'll all germinate and instead of compost bins you'll have tomato jungles. I don't even want to think about what's going to happen to municipal waste processing systems when those tomato seeds are flushed!


    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  18. Ha! I knew something was amiss when I read the quote from that old book, esp. the "thou should cherisheth and guardeth them" part. Good one!

  19. If I didn't know you better, Carol, I would be googling Reilloflirpa this minute:) I think you may have fooled some other gardeners with all this impressive research; I was almost convinced myself. But I DO believe you have 14 varieties of tomatoes! Happy April Fools' Day!

  20. You had me going there for a few a minute... I am always looking for a new tomato. This year I am growing: Aunt Ruby's Green, Black Krim, Black from Tula, Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, Eva's PB, Kellog's Breakfast, Ananas Noire, Sungold, Sunsugar, Gardener's Delight, Aunt Gertie's Gold, and a few more. I love tomato season!

  21. Happy April fools, Carol! ReiLooflirpa my...

  22. This is amazing! And how exciting for you! Maybe you can get a cultivar named after you!

  23. I so wanted to believe you... *sigh*. Would have been totally awesome if it was true!! Growing Purple Calabash, Gardener's Delight, Sungold and Marmande here.

  24. Good one!! Happy April Fool's day.

  25. Carol, you could beat your own record for the World's Ugliest Tomato if that plant produces as promised! I expect it may spontaneously combust around midnight tonight, however.

  26. I'm guessing you made this up.... a few to many comeths in there!

  27. hee hee. I gotta tell you, I thought you were working your garden redisgn up for an April Fools joke so I am delighted you are moving forward with the garden redesign and you were only concerned about gigantic tomatoes

  28. you are a bad man .. LOL. but very funny. hahaa

  29. Your blog is really wonderful..inspiring!


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