Penn and Cord about to plant the Glass Gem.
When Seeds Trust trusted us with 300 seeds of the famous Glass Gem Popcorn last spring we were excited to try it. It was a thrill - this is the corn the whole world wants and the waiting lists keep getting longer as the people wait for the seed.
We had first seen the corn at Seed School in 2010 and Cord wanted to grow it then. I recently wrote an article about the Glass Gem Corn Craze in the Colorado Gardner, (www.coloradogardener.com), giving even more shine on this wildly popular corn. (Pictures of the corn went viral before there was much seed available - people are waiting!)
We've been growing Seeds Trust's Candy Mountain Sweet Corn for over 20 years at 8,000 ft. in the Rockies so we felt confident we could grow this corn.
So beautiful - and diverse. There is nothing like it. The following is photographic documentation of our attempt in yet another wildly different and strange year in Colorado.
History in our hands.
Preparing the site - three - 5' X 20' Bio-intensive beds.
Young plants up and going in June.
Seed to soil contact - firm the soil after planting seeds.
At 5" tall - a pole bean is planted to feed nitrogen to the corn.
Fertilizing the corn organically followed by heavy mulch.
We had perfect, vigorous germination and good early growth in the sunny warmth of June. The bean plants were all up at the foot of each corn plant and we were off to a good start.
When the rains came, the plants grew lush and deep green, absolutely beautiful, it looked like the happiest corn in the world. About the time it was 5- 6' tall, we were both wondering when it was going to tassle. It seemed to be taking it's sweet little time. Suddenly it was late August and I was getting worried. This is an ancestral corn from the Cherokee people and although I don't know a proper corn ceremony, I planned to dance naked as another form of stimulant I could give it - when the hail beat me to it! I'd like to take credit for the tassling, but it was probably the hail, just the right amount to stimulate the outer leaves but not kill the crowns. It started tassling shortly after.
Lush and green.
And then the hail came.
Tattered outer leaves with crowns intact.
Dancing naked in the corn to make it tassle.
The first tassle!
More to come.
When the corn finally started to tassle it shot up to over 7' tall and showed great promise. But by late August we knew it wasn't going to make it without help. On September first, the day before Max left for college - he was still packing, he and other boys, helped Cord erect the framework below.
By the time we got the cover over it - a pretty huge cover, a lot of the corn was 9' tall and some pushing 10'. Some of it touched the roof when they put the plastic on. It grew during the time they installed the frame and put on the cover. It was crazy tall and each, now, long, skinny stalk, had multiple silks setting ears. The pollen was amazing in there, falling and collecting on the leaves below, when you walked through it, you had the sensation of moving the pollen just with your body passing by. The corn had a stunning presence, I was very aware it was special, even though I can't explain it here. It was so relaxing and lovely to water - especially when I had a little music. I completely believed it would make it - especially because we had the big cover to get it through the first few frosts of September. We watered religiously and opened and closed the thing every day.
So we decide to cover it.
Putting on the cover.
Sides roll open and doors open on each end.
When we first covered the corn it rained hard and long for a week. We didn't ventilate much until we discovered rust spreading through the plants at an alarming rate. We ran to look it up to learn what to do. Ventilation was our best tool so we opened up even during the cool rain and then when the sun came out it naturally reversed it and it eventually slowed down to a halt. After that it was too dry for it to make any progress but we were dealing with a disease we don't usually have to deal with - because we are usually so dry. The Candy Mountain Sweet Corn Seeds Trust carries is adapting happily to the high and dry. But the Glass Gem arrived on the coolest, wettest, cloudiest, slowest year we've maybe ever seen. The plants grew huge plant bodies and didn't set fruit until the end of the summer - we saw it with the squash and tomatoes too.
2012 and 2013 will be my Poster Children for "Every year is different in Colorado". I'm not messing around. There could not be two more different years. So - once again, Colorado, Earth, Mother Nature - is in charge of our crop and we are just little high-altitude gardeners trying to grow a precious corn. So maybe next year Colorado will grow the Glass Gem early and we will have a heavy crop of the world's most beautiful corn.
Even the tassles were beautiful and multi-colored. The following pictures were about 5 days too late - they were past their peak but you can still see the variation. I loved it.
Glass Gem Corn Tassles
After the first light frosts, the green stalks will continue the cobs - well - on a normal year - whatever that is.
This is when you know - that not even one cob has any development on it at all. It took a long time for me to have the courage to open a cob to find what I already knew. It was over. No Glass Gem for a waiting list of thousands. We would have to try again.
I called Julia Coffey of Seeds Trust the other day - and blurted out, "total and complete crop failure on the Glass Gem" and started to cry - even though I didn't want to or plan to. (Cord never cried, he'd faced reality long before and as this was primarily his baby - he is looking forward to trying again next year.)
Julia was awesome of course, she told me she had no doubt that we had done everything we could to make it happen. She knew it was a risk on a good year in the mountains. She understands that it requires time and patience to grow seed.
I don't regret the year that was, the cool rainy days were like heaven to me. Our land hasn't seen moisture like that in 20 years. But cool, rainy mountain weather doesn't grow a Cherokee corn in a hurry.
So, next year it is, it will fly - it will grow to fruition, we know what we are doing when it comes to corn, (naked dancing aside), and Julia is willing to let us try again. No matter what, it was beautiful in all stages and a great pleasure to grow.
This is where it stands today - (or not), we will take down the cover and make compost with the plants.
Copyright (C) 2013 Use all photos with permission only.
If you want to get succulent home-grown tomatoes like these - you need to keep tobacco far away from your plants, your greenhouse, your baby starts - all of it. Tobacco can give tomatoes the disease Tobacco Mosaic Virus (ToMV). If you chew or are a smoker of tobacco - commercial cig's or organic, do not smoke around your tomatoes and do not touch them without washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
When people come to tour I am very clear about smokers going in my greenhouses - I even threaten to tackle them if they think of touching the door jam. God forbid a smoker who hangs out around the farmer's market - strange huh - but I have no problem asking them to smoke elsewhere - only for the sake of the tomatoes.
One study I read about showed Tobacco Mosaic Virus present in 40% of commercial tobacco - and that was in the 80's.
The disease can also be spread by many common plants like marigold, petunia, hollyhock and zinnia. Also nightshades and mints - and a whole slew of others. 5 different kinds of aphids can carry the disease too.
Sometimes the disease can take them out slowly - sometimes quickly - spreading from plant to plant. Often people don't recognize the link or what is happening to their slowly degrading tomato plants. The disease can live in the soil and plant debris so if you think you've had it - clean up and remove debris instead of composting it. Grow tomatoes somewhere new and let that area rest.
Rodale's Encyclopedia of Natural Insect & Disease Control is an excellent resource for the home gardener. I learn so much every time I crack it open.
If you have no choice and the smoker in your life won't keep out of the greenhouse or garden - you may have better luck with a hybrid bred to resist this disease. When you look at hybrid tomatoes - you often see a bunch of letters after the name - like VFT or others. "T", or "TMV" is for Tobacco Mosaic Virus and it is your clue that that tomato is resistant. These would not be good choices for saving seeds of course.
"Leaves may have light and dark green mottling, and at colder temperatures may become spindly. Fruit may ripen unevenly and develop brown spots."
Growing Nicotiana - Tobacco
I have been growing, studying and teaching tomatoes for 20 years. I know this pretty well - and learned it early on from a friend whose husband wouldn't ask his friend to not smoke in their house - yes, this was 20 years ago - and it affected one tomato and then all the rest as well. She learned the hard way. I even had a guy come and buy tomato plants from me - a chain smoker to be sure and he did not believe me. So he set up my high-altitude, organically raised perfect tomato starts in the garage and smoked all over them - killing them one by one. He came back with a cheerful, yellow smile to exclaim - "Hell if you weren't right!" I have never sold him tomatoes again - and probably never will. AS IF!
BUT, after all of my protection and teaching I too, can be totally dumb. I also teach companion planting, integration of growing and also fill my large containers with food, herbs and flowers, always have, always will.
So - right next to the beautiful iron gate by the entrance to my garden sit two half whiskey barrels - perfect for deep planting. That year I started with a tumbling tomato, and lots of herbs and flowers to integrate with it. Oh yeah, I love to grow Nicotiana - (tobacco) for it's magnificently fragrant white flowers. They come in other colors but the white is the most ethereal. A perfect moonlight flower and the scent hits you like a ton of bricks at the gate - kapow!!! I love this plant. I think of it as Nicotiana - not tobacco. I think of it as a beautiful garden flower that the flying creatures love. And so - smart me - I planted them together - Nicotiana for beauty, fragrance and the moon and the tumbling tomatoes coming right over the side of the whiskey barrel for snacking and beauty. Sigh.
Not good. It took me a while too - wondering what was wrong with this poor tomato. Over time, leaf mottling began to occur, the plant was wilted and strange looking - it was trying so hard but it just couldn't do it.
And then I hit myself in the head - "Tobacco!" I yelled, "Cord, you will not believe what I did."
The moral of the story is - do not plant nicotine around your tomatoes - they don't like it. I know Nicotine was sometimes used as a powerful insecticide in the past, but it is not something I would ever mess around with. Besides, there are many better ways to deal with bugs and disease than a hard-core drug like Nicotine.
I grow it still - in it's own pot - away from the tomatoes and enjoy the white trumpets opening in the evening and blasting me and my last cup of tea for the day into heaven.
Here's a couple of hybrids - yes, me, heirloom grower, I had to look them up - for tobacco smokers. I don't have any experience with these varieties but hope they will work for you if you have been having trouble with tomatoes and tobacco. This is not a sure thing - but it could help. Please look them up yourself to see if they are appropriate for your climate and season length. These are all chosen quickly from a catalog - there are many more to choose from - this is just to get you started.
Bush Early Girl VFFNT Hybrid
Jetsetter VFFNTA Hybrid
Ball's Beefsteak VFFT Hybrid
Big Beef VFFNTA Hybrid
Celebrity VFFNTA Hybrid
Champion II VFNT Hybrid
Cobra VFT Hybrid
Super Marzano VFNT Hybrid
Sweet Treats FFT Hybrid
Sweet Million FNT Hybrid
Sunsugar FT Hybrid
Nicotiana in mixed planters - but not with tomatoes!
Healthy tomatoes in Cord's winter greenhouse.
Harlequin Gardens geo-thermal greenhouse.
Cord and I had a big weekend adventure north recently and it was fun, fun, fun. Our first stop was a consultation in Boulder with a nice couple trying to make their all-glazed little greenhouse work for them. We shared lots of information and left them excited to get started.
The next stop was a place we've wanted to go for a long time - Harlequin Gardens in Boulder. Mikl and Eve Brawner run this nursery using this subterranean - geo-thermal greenhouse - no fuel bill of course. And of course - we love any smart greenhouse - not just our design - but others that work fuel-less as well.
They grow lots of natives, lots of water-wise plants and are practicing sustainability everywhere you look. Worm compost is making under the benches - leaves are fed to worms - and everytime the flats above them are watered - it moistens the piles underneath. At the end of the season Mikl applies it to the gardens and then starts again. Cord and Mikl had a great time talking greenhouse talk. Cord is currently designing greenhouses so he likes to learn about other sustainable designs. They had a great time while Eve showed me around to all of the established gardens there. I loved the site - very real - with high-quality plants.
BBB Seed - Beauty Beyond Belief/Bounty Beyond Belief/Botanicals Beyond Belief
Cord and our friend Mike Wade at BBB.
Cord and Mike Wade at BBB Seed - woohoo! We love being around seeds - they throb with life! They are wildflower specialists but they also have a vegetable line - all heirloom and mostly organic.
We met Mike at Seed School and also know his daughter so we really like this company. BBB stands for Beauty Beyond Belief - an old Boulder wildflower seed company and the new vegetable line - Bounty Beyond Belief - and new - Botanicals Beyond Belief - very nice.
It was fun to hang out with the Head Honcho himself - check them out at: http://www.bbbseed.com/
On To Panayoti's
What a blast - a 'cheesball' picture to make us laugh!
Panayoti and Jan are our wonderful friends and hosts when we come to teach in Denver. They won't be stopped - they insist we come and we absolutely love that.
They are the most wonderful hosts - and we laugh and laugh.
We brought last-minute friend's so Panayoti put on some more chops - they are amazing and it is the most comfortable place to stay.
We arrived after our wild day in Boulder - and after a huge feast and lots of great conversation with the world travelers - we crashed - ready to teach in the morning.
Thank you - as always you two - we have a blast - hee hee.
We credit Panayoti for discovering us - and Jan was our first friend at DBG. What fun.
Teaching at Denver Botanic Gardens
My Big Ol' Man - teaching Sustainable Greenhouse Design.
Lots of students!
And For Added Fun...
In beautiful Gates Hall.
They had it loaded so fast - I could barely get a picture.
Our son Max to the rescue. "Max, hook up the flat bed, load the ramps, chains and tools and drive to Denver and rescue us." "Okay." As he hung up the phone Cord said, "It's great having a grown man for a son!" It's only a 44' rig all hooked up plus he had to hook it up - make sure the lights work, find a spare, amongst other things - like he's 18. Of course he did it all - no problem.
Chaining it down.
Loading the ramps while Cord chains the back.
I'd rather break down in the wilderness than in the city any day. At least then, I'd know what to do. The best option was Max bringing us the ability to get it home to our awesome mechanic - Paul Austin - of Austin Automotive.
We took Max out to dinner on the way home and then stopped in Canon City after dark and dropped the car and it's broken fuel pump - off at the mechanic. But still - the trip was great, the students were wonderful - and we made many great connections.
We are planning the next greenhouse class in Kittredge, Co - coming up next month. Until then, we are starting seeds like crazy and planning the 2013 season. Be back soon with more tomato talk.
Okay - I am going to lay this on you - right in mid-stream. I am finally on the other side of the great tomato seed project - although it's not really over yet. I am preparing to sell some, donate some and of course - sow some. I still have a few varieties rolling around the house. Principe Borghese is hanging in the coat rack, ripened and covered in coats. The cats bat them around the house - ripened or not. Its been an amazing experience.
So - I thought I'd show you some steps.
Right now I am in the process of sorting, combining and crumbling the hundreds of seed cakes waiting in their coffee filters.
Since I took many batches of tomatoes off the plants throughout the season, this makes for many small batches of seeds that need to be combined. I also took the over-ripe, rotten tomatoes from beneath neglected plants and saved their seed too. This stains the seed a little - leaving it slightly darker than seed saved from a perfectly ripened tomato. In nature, the seed goes through the rotting and fermenting of the decomposing tomato and is stained much darker than what you usually see in a seed packet. I kept it separate until I spoke to one of my seed mentor's - thank you Wes McDorman, and realized all was well - variation in color is just that - color and does not affect the seed itself.
Principe Borghese hanging in the coat rack and raining down on the couch below.
I love to pose them, meet Wendy, Ida Gold, Peacevine and Fox Cherry.
Meet The Golden King of Siberia, Nebraska Wedding, Rio Grande, Crimson Sprinter.
It all starts here - piles and piles and bucket and buckets. It's a daunting sight in the living room, and there was more - before...
Fermenting in jars.
Fill the jars with water and let settle very briefly before pouring off.
Seeds on the bottom, debris in the water.
Pour off the gooey water, leaving the seeds behind.
Refill and let settle - I used less water this time.
Rinse repeatedly until the water is clear and all the seeds are clean.
Pour it all quickly into a sieve.
Use a coffee filter or paper towel to dry the seeds in.
Label and fold.
Making a dent, out of coffee filters, switched to paper towels.
Many, many seed cakes - ready to be packaged. The ones in front are all Seeds Trust varieties.
I began with Seeds Trust's seeds, grouping all the Sasha's to start crumbling.
Each batch is slightly different, like the tomato(es) it came from. Notice the size and color variation.
I grouped Ida Gold's together and lined up some more.
Sasha's - with notes on the year, where or how it was grown, even characteristics.
Different but the same.
Combine their strengths.
Pack them up!
Left two rows are the result of all the Seeds Trust seed - ready to be germ tested.
What? It's true - if I want to know how strong my seed is, and if I want to sell it, I need to know it's germination percentages. A germination test is simple stuff, you are simply germinating 10, 50, 100, 150 seeds to get an accurate percentage.
It is perfectly accurate to germ test 10 seeds and get an easy result. If only 8 germinate, you have 80%, 2, you only have 20% - not acceptable. To be acceptable, it needs to be 70% or above. Most tomato seed is much higher than that - and some of mine has been, a few have not. Even low germ seed can still give you thriving plants - the seeds are just not sellable, but you will learn what ever you did during the process that resulted in a low germ.
Here are some ideas of why low germination happens.
1.) Sometimes, in the bottom of a bucket, there would be a squished green tomato or two that spewed their seed all over the others. I took care to remove them as they might not be ripe. How do I know? If the seed is not viable, it floats. So during its water bath, the good seed, with a viable embryo inside, sinks quickly to the bottom while the other light, non-viable seed, is still swirling around in the water. Out it goes with all the other debris in the water. Repeating this many times assures the seed you save is viable.
2.) If the tomato (the fruit) was frozen or slightly frozen before the seed was saved, it may not be viable.
3.) If your seeds dried out during the fermenting process you can have non-viable seed, because they can try to sprout before they dry up and then it wastes the embryo. Re-hydrating them can work if you catch it in time.
4.) If the tomatoes are not fully ripened, they could produce non-viable seed.
5.) Dried seeds get overheated over a long period of time or fluctuating temperatures adversely affected them.
How To Perform A Germ Test:
Traditional Paper Method:
Use horticultural germination paper OR paper towels or other similar papers to germinate 10 - 100 seeds. Spread them out evenly - no touching so you can easily count them. Make a block of 10 X 10 of seeds to keep a group of 100 organized. Fold the ends and roll up the paper like a big cigar - it will be big for peas but smaller for tomatoes, wet it, and store it in an open plastic bag. (You can wet the paper first.)
Check it after a few days and then again regularly until germination occurs. Wait until you think they are all germinated. Unroll the paper and count how many seeds germinated. Do your math and you have your percentage.
Traditional Soil* Method:
Sow seed in a soil-less seed-starting medium, counting out 10-100 seeds and arranging them to not touch so it's easier to count. Write down how many seeds you sow for each variety - I do this right on the seed packet. Mark each group of seed carefully in the flat. Lightly cover with medium and press with the flat of your hand. Seed to soil contact is essential for good germination. Water and cover the flat with plastic - I use produce bags because they float but Wes recently instructed me to use newspaper and pull it off the minute they germinate - he's cured any damping off with this method. Covering the flat is important in our dry climate to keep the growing medium steadily moist.
When your seeds germinate, give them 3 - 10 days - and then count them and match them up to your notes - do your math and you will have your percentage. Many great minds agree that the soil method is the best and most accurate. It is my preferred method because I do not want to waste precious, high-altitude seed. With the soil method, you can continue to grow out the test seed and use the plants.
Wes also soaks the tomato and pepper seeds in warm water from a few hours to a day or two so they sprout faster when he plants them. I germinate on the propane stove, oven or heater - with the pilot light. Tomatoes like warmth to germinate. 75-80 degrees is just right.
*Note: - I use a soil-less medium to prevent damping off disease and other soil-borne diseases. Using an earth soil potting mix is appropriate for 'teenagers' - young transplants - they are stronger then and can handle it. Infants need to be in something clean.
My Soil-less Seed Starting Medium:
Diluted Liquid Kelp
Soak the coir with Liquid Kelp solution - follow directions for amounts on the package. Cut it with perlite - more or less - I use 1/3.
Ready to Germ Test! Many great minds agree soil is a more accurate way to test.
Germination! Warming on the propane heater.
I germinate my flats on anything that has a pilot light. In this case, it is on the heater in the living room - next to the couch. As you can see, they all come up a little differently and in their own time. Soon I will have my results.
I did use Wes's method of covering the flat with moist newspaper until germination, then removing it. I hope it helps with damping off - thanks to Wes of course.
There it is, my giant tomato seed story, I hope you enjoyed it.
The path to the hot tub!
The first morning - it snowed for 5 more days!
Being stranded in Steamboat is not such a bad thing, especially when you are staying with my friend Annie - such a wonderful hostess with the kind of house you love to hang out in. Although I worked, a puzzle loomed, chocolate was in abundance and there was the promise of bacon in the morning. It was decadent. I left the day of the storm - to come in that night and headed north on an adventure. Somewhere around Fairplay it started to snow and on Hoosier, started to stick. After a frightening slip, I carried on in 4WD, basically crawling down the hairpins. The road was changing fast so I slugged along. I arrived to my smiling friend and her funny big dogs and I disappeared into her lovely house for longer than I thought.
It snowed, and snowed, and snowed. My friend is only 5'2" - the snow finally let up at 58" - she only had 4" on it! My car steadily disappeared into the snow, for 6 days. The pictures above are only the first morning.
In the evenings, Annie went out to check the animals one more time, with her dogs in tow, bounding through the snow to the barn. This is how she dressed to brave the snow and wind.
Going home in the cold.
After 6 days it stopped snowing and I headed home - normally a 5 hour drive took all day. I put-putted all the way home. I rarely drove over 40 mph. At one point there was a frightened sports car with a train of 25 behind it traveling 20 mph. It was slow and steady like the turtle. When I passed through Kremmling, it was -4 degrees - cold and slick as could be.
But I had some John Denver on and enjoyed the view, which in Colorado is well, you know - outrageous. Thank you Annie, for having me on a fine adventure.
I made it home to more snow - a very good sign for the winter to come. Snow begets snow and no snow begets no snow. We are well on our way to wildflowers.
A Kinko as big as your arm!
It was a difficult summer for me. All along I've been reporting on how great it was for us - and it was - we rocked out more food than ever and had incredible abundance in the gardens. But I just didn't feel good this summer. Perhaps it was from the heat, my right leg hurt, my arms were heavy and it felt like I could get nothing accomplished. Other people told me they actually felt nauseated from the heat.
Hey - I'm a mountain woman - I can't do heat. Basically I lurked in the shade - moving from tree to tree and under any kind of cover. Then I'd try to beat the dark and do all my chores from 6-9pm.
It seems like summer just ended with these first snows - we've been enjoying the warmth all this time.
I'm awake now though and the other day I went through some pictures and realized what a wonderful mountain summer it was. Here is an eclectic group of experiences and moments.
This storm kicked ever-lovin' ass up north - it was just rolling by.
Glorious Penstemon growing out of a severe cut in the Wets.
Getting ready for dinner.
The Blue Moon
Watching it come up with my friend on Skyline Drive.
Beautiful CC students waking up in the Grandfather Tree after working.
Beautiful volunteers in Cord's greenhouse.
My chamomile bed - coming along.
Bertha May with her seed grown apple trees.
Wulfgar's first omelette.
What a beautiful intruder!
Late summer birthdays on the secret water.
I chased these rainbows all the way home - the picture is out my sun roof while driving!
Some of the last tomatoes - right before squeezing and saving.
Beau and Cord provided the beautiful 6X6 bull elk on Beau's back - congratulations men! Penn was squeakin' and they went creepin' and encountered a beautiful bull - breaking a 3 year elk drought for us! They worked as a team but it just so happened Beau had the kill-shot - 300 yards - through the heart. Well done Beau.
The freezer is happy again - balanced with the remains of last year's 5 deer and a fresh bull. Life is good. This was our 12th year and Beau's best to be sure.
Coming out of the woods with the horns.
Loading the meat.
Our new OUTSTANDING Iron Cloth Panniers.
I had the extreme pleasure of tending horses in a mountain meadow surrounded by aspens while the men butchered the elk. I've never had it so good. That's not true - one other time - when Max was 14, I got to tend the horses for an hour or so and then I butchered with them. I don't mind - it's part of the deal but I felt like a queen with my only job to graze the horses - wahoo! I dried tack in the sun and rotated horses around the meadow until they were stuffed.
I had time to take the above picture - which is as zoomed as I could go - to see the bit of orange which is them - up on the sidehill - doin' the hard stuff.
"I made meat Ma" is an old mountain-man term and we say it when we are blessed with clean, excellent food like Colorado-grown elk.
This trip was special - we might rest next year - we completed a dozen years in the high-high and we feel we are due a break from the big trip. I spend months getting myself and the horses ready for 11,000 ft. This is a good thing - don't get me wrong - but Cord and I have always dreamed of going up there in the summer - when we are not battling the extremes while carrying extra-heavy gear and guns - what would that be like? In all these years we never made a summer trip. So there - a new goal - what if I was hunting flowers - seeds, wild food? It sounds heavenly. And it is.
Friends, I will write this year's hunting story soon and shall send it around the holidays - until then, keep your feet dry.
Beau and Cord parting out the bull.
Gorgeous boy in the wilderness.
Grazing girls in camp. That mountain is over 11,000 ft.
I am overwhelmed in tomatoes. Buckets and buckets and bags and bags everywhere. It's frightening. It's a huge challenge for me. The picture to the left is me posing samples of tomatoes - the load I got off each plant is truly amazing. it makes for a lot of jars - gallons too. The house smells so bad sometimes it makes me feel woozy.
No one has seen me or heard from me - only tales of tomatoes...
Good grief it's a lot of seed!
My family has been amazingly tolerant of this process - and with so many jars at once - it reeks! I'd recommend a seed room. That's what I want - a seed room.
After you squeeze the seeds and gel into a jar, give it three days and wait for the white mold to appear. After that - it is time to add water, mix it all up, let it settle and pour the goo and non-viable seeds off the top - leaving the perfect seeds at the bottom. Repeat until there is nothing but water and clean seed in the bottom, then dump through a sieve and dry them on paper.
When I am rinsing the seed I collect the waste water in a bucket and dump it on the compost pile.
Of course not everyone would be doing this on such a large scale unless they were a seed company so a few jars on the counter won't stink you out of your house. I allowed myself to grow as many varieties of tomatoes as I wanted last season so challenging myself to save seed from every variety seemed the thing to do. I know for sure I won't make 130 - but I might make 125! We'll see.
This mold is nature releasing and purifying the seed - it's a beautiful thing.
Tomato Aficionados - prepare yourselves...
Black From Tula
Black From Tula
Black From Tula
I shall post more tomato porn so have at it - it's too much sometimes. I am still squeezing, fermenting and rinsing - but am determined to conquer the challenge.
The form and beauty of the plants, flowers, fruit and seed are a great joy in my life.
Photographing them is a bonus - so much fun - they are photogenic to be sure.
I am taking a break from processing to post this - but then it's back in I go.
DON'T FORGET - SAVE TOMATO SEEDS!!!!!!! How-To-Instructions
Oh What fun! I am collecting tomatoes every day - trying to beat the ever-lovin' squirrels for the first ripe tomato on each plant. Besides saving for flavor, I am saving for earliness. I taste them as I am squeezing the seeds into a jar, then run to the computer to write a critique on my list. I'm still chewing while I write. It's so fun how different they are - and how different they can grow and even taste year to year.
This year Kotlas is producing outstandingly, before - I rarely noticed it - kinda small and funny I wrote, but now I am raving. Of course Sasha's Altai is the best tomato in the world, no matter what is happening. Nothing can beat it for earliness, and nothing can beat it for flavor either. It makes you make noises when you eat it.
I am cataloging every one - as they come in and into the seed jar. Here's a few awesome shots of tomato porn.
Sasha's Altai, best tomato in the world.
Olga's Yellow Chicken
Silvery Fir Tree
I love these tomatoes - Big and Little. Above is the mighty Silvery Fir Tree, beloved by all who grows it. This plant grows only 2'X2' and has delightfully lacy foliage - like a silvery carrot. But the load, oh the load of big, fat, slicers. It's a good thing it's so short or it would fall over. It is Russian and a determinate so you get a lot at once. Like most of the determinates, it puts on another flush - as does Moscow - another favorite. So drool while thinking about the next sandwich that needs this tomato and grow it - a BLT?, a grilled veggie sandwich? No matter - you will love this tomato.
Below is Coyote. A currant tomato of course and born in tiny clusters. Diversity is the name of the game. I'm holding him in the rain, which is making them grow right now. Each tomato is completely unique. I love tasting them, discovering their idiosyncrasy's, how they grow, who is first. Olga's Yellow Chicken really does look like bright yellow eggs on the vine - too cool. And Wendy - from New Zealand - "Sweet as a plum" - and so early and plentiful - I've gotten to know each one.
Coyote - currant tomato
I buy my seeds from Seeds Trust first, then go from there. I am now saving seeds so I buy less and less all the time. You can save seeds too - it's easy and fun. Go to our website for The Westcliffe Seed Lending Library and learn how on the education page. Remember, it's not only economical, it will help you grow better than you ever have before. Seeds adapt to their environment and carry the information over into the next generation. In the mountain garden - this is exactly what we need. So I'm having a ball - can't get enough. I hope to save 130 varieties. I am well on my way. It's hard to eat them though - especially Sasha's Altai - the fastest mountain tomato you ever saw, as now I see the seed as precious bounty for me and the masses, instead of perfect deliciousness for my belly. I'll take more pictures tomorrow - like Black Plum, a 'brown' tomato, Indigo Rose, the deepest purple ever, and White Queen, chosen for fine Russian flavor.
ThinderfooT's desert-adapted Golden Grape
Beau, Cord and Max on the last day.
Check it out - what a beaut! 18' X 64' This greenhouse is in the Gardner area - a lovely warm micro-climate for growing indoors and out. It is aerodynamic, and has snow shields on the front winter vents, and over the upper vents. They all have automatic openers on them. Natural convection provides the ventilation. There are two layers of barrels instead of 3 as this is in a warmer clime.
There is a combination of double-paned glass and clear twin-wall polycarbonate on the south wall to provide a Rocky Mountain view and to diffuse light and cut cost.
The boys double dug the beds and I sent tomato plants along - to get them started - it was so fun. It will be interesting to see what else they grow this winter.
Double dug (Bio-intensive) beds ready to plant.
What a floor plan! They left room only for a table made of two blue barrels with a board on top. The rest is for growing. This is such a cool pic - I want to plant it - don't you? Think of all the possibilities and potential.
Okay - enough drooling. Hopefully - I will finally post the rest of the pictures of the building of this thing on the greenhouse pages. I gave it up - I don't know why but am fully aware I must continue and finish.
Cord, once again, learned so much building this thing and is currently designing the next one in Salida which involves an attached shed and porch. He is a great designer and is working away on it. There are talks for a greenhouse in Howard, Alma, La Veta and Walsenburg - we have to just keep on building - go Cord!
Many thanks to our good friend Rick, who built this along with Cord and the boys.
The other direction.
End of day.