(Almost) Instant Replay: 9th Annual Tomato Tasting Results

(Almost) Instant Replay: 9th Annual Tomato Tasting Results

Perhaps the only thing that the staff a Seed Savers Exchange love more about their jobs than growing plants  is actually getting to eat some of the amazing fruits that these plants produce. As part of our work here we get to take part in taste evaluations and no evaluation is more anticipated and beloved than our Annual Tomato Tasting.

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What's Your Heirloom Tomato Name?

Ever wonder about the names of your favorite heirloom tomatoes? Some names are rather descriptive of the color, shape, or place they came from (Hungarian Heart, Green Sausage, Wapsipinicon Peach), others just make you scratch your head (Mortgage Lifter), and still others are equally descriptive and curious (Hillbilly Potato Leaf, Trucker's Favorite). We put together a guide for you to have some fun and figure out what your heirloom tomato name could be!

Heirloom Tomato

Comment below to tell us your heirloom tomato name!

(click here to view the 1700 comments from our Facebook followers!)

 

Heirloom Tomato Seeds

 

Browse the 90 heirloom tomato seed varieties in our online store

 

 

Heirloom Tomato Transplant

 

Browse our selection of heirloom tomato transplants

 

 

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Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

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This Valentine's Day, Say it With Seeds!

Valentine's Seeds

Dearest Romantic Gardeners: Do you have a special someone to woo on this Valentine's Day? Rather than the typical box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers, consider the gift that keeps on giving: Heirloom Seeds! In addition to providing us with wonderful flavors, stunning beauty and the genetic diversity needed for agricultural sustainability, their beautiful and unique names offer us a clever way to delight our Valentine gardeners. So let some of our Heirloom seeds do the talking for you! Here are a few great examples cooked up by our crafty staff (click the images to enlarge them):

First of all, make sure to tell that special someone just how much you lovage Lovage  them...

 

...and how they'll always be your Valentine Sunflower Valentine Sunflower...

 

or Black Valentine Bean Black Valentine Bean,

 

 

because you've been struck by Cupid's Arrow Green Arrow Pea!

 

 

And what Valentine's Day is complete without a Bouquet Dill Bouquet, herb of flowers ,

 

a Rose Tomato Rose Tomato or China Rose Radish China Rose Radish,

 

a box of Sweet Chocolate Sweet Chocolate Bell Pepper,

 

or some Candy Isis Candy Cherry Tomato?

 

So prove to your Valentine you have a Heart of Gold Hearts of Gold Melon

 

by treating your Garden Sunshine Garden Sunshine Pepper

 

like an Empress Empress Bean,

 

 

with a romantic Candlelight Candlelight Pepper  Picnic Picnic Watermelon,

 

 

while watching the Sunset Sunset Runner Bean.

 

 

Finally, turn what was once your Flame Flame Lettuce,

 

 

into your King King of the North Pepper or Queen Table Queen Squash,

 

 

by giving a precious Gem Emerald Gem Melon, or,

 

 

dare we say- a Diamond Diamond Eggplant?

Evaluation Program Highlights for 2012

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The Evaluation Program

Maintaining and distributing unique heirloom and open-pollinated seeds is the primary goal of the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) gene bank. The Evaluation Program is an important link between maintaining varieties at Heritage Farm and getting them into the hands of gardeners, chefs, and farmers.

The Evaluation Program, which is only three years old, was started with the financial support from people like you. The program allows us to collect data on a variety’s traits throughout its life cycle. This data includes characteristics such as plant height, flower color, days to maturity, and fruit size.

  • In 2012 staff recorded more than 40,000 evaluation descriptors on over 1,000 different accessions.

Bringing Back Food Culture

evaluation scan

The program also evaluates culinary usage—incredibly important in a world of unsustainable eating and forgotten food cultures. Modern fruits and vegetables bred for shipping and uniformity lack the diversity seen in heirloom varieties—like beets, potatoes, cabbages, and apples that store for months in a root cellar; horticultural beans harvested between the snap and dry bean phases for their higher protein content; and melons best suited for baking. The forgotten traits in these varieties are the building blocks to a sustainable food system.

The information collected through the evaluation program serves several purposes. It allows us to:

  • Increase our knowledge about each variety and make that information available to gardeners.
  • Make informed management decisions about the collection by developing a comprehensive profile of each accession.
  • Reintroduce unique and rare varieties into the marketplace.

From the Preservation Gardens

For the first time ever, Seed Savers Exchange is offering a collection of varieties ‘From the Preservation Gardens’ in our catalog this year. These varieties were selected because of their interesting histories, unique characteristics, and popularity with staff—a direct result of the Evaluation Program.

  • Join us in our efforts to preserve our garden heritage for future generations to come. With your financial support for the Evaluation Program, we can rediscover our food culture—one variety at a time.

donateA tax-deductible donation to Seed Savers Exchange will help us continue to maintain genetic diversity through projects like the Evaluation Program. Support our effort by making a donation or becoming a member online today, or call us at (563) 382-5990 (M-F, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm Central Time).

Thank you for your support,

John Torgrimson Executive Director

SSE 2013 Calendar

P.S. Donate $150 or more before December 31, 2012 and receive a free Seed Savers Exchange 2013 Calendar, which offers a beautiful glimpse of nature's seed bounty at Heritage Farm near Decorah, Iowa, where every seed has a story to tell.

 


2012 Evaluation Highlights

 

Horticultural Beans (Shelling Beans)

bean scan

Eating beans from the pod, when the beans are fully expanded but not yet dry, is becoming a lost culinary tradition in America. The plump, wet, beans do not store well, and they are difficult to shell mechanically because the tender beans cannot tolerate rough handling. For these reasons, shelling beans have been shunned by industrial agriculture. However, the flavor is rich and shelling beans are richer in nutrients than dry beans. We added a horticultural bean taste test to our 2012 bean evaluation and found that most beans taste good as shelling beans, and some taste really good! Many that performed well in our taste test were not necessarily known as shelling beans historically. For example, “Bessie” (Bean 6042) has been passed down maternally in Frances Sullivan’s family for over a century, each generation using it primarily as a green bean for fresh eating and canning.

Tomato 324 ‘D. Jena Lee’s Golden Girl’

tomato scan

This variety really caught our attention in the 2012 taste test. We described it as having “excellent robust flavor, sweet and slightly tart, low-medium acidity, firm and meaty texture but still juicy, great as a slicing tomato.” Curious about the variety, we investigated its history and discovered that it is mis-named in our collection and should be called “Djena Lee’s Golden Girl.” We are not the first to notice its outstanding flavor. It is promoted by Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, and won the Chicago Fair’s taste test 10 years in a row in the 1920s and 1930s. Though historically, women played a central role in developing and improving varieties in America’s gardens, Djena Lee was one of the few female plant breeders who enjoyed recognition for her efforts in early 20th century America.

Kohlrabi 44 ‘Giant Czechoslovakian’

kohlrabi scan

Most kohlrabi reach market maturity in 50-60 days and quickly become woody if left in the field. For that reason, we complete our market mature evaluation at 60 days. One variety in our evaluation grow-out, ‘Giant Czechoslovakian,’ did not form a kohlrabi head at 60 days. We thought it did not care for the spring weather. But in our fall grow-out of the same varieties, it again produced no stem-swelling at 60 days. We began to question whether it was really a kohlrabi, or if our seed-stock was compromised by crossing with another Brassica oleracea. We researched similarly named varieties in commercial catalogs, promoted as a 130 day maturity kohlrabi that does not get woody even when large. Then we went back to the long-forgotten spring planting and found enormous kohlrabis! Harvested at 176 days, they tasted great!

 Squash 5080 ‘Dostal Cucumber’ Squash

This squash’s oblong shape, size, and dark green mature color make it look somewhat like a cucumber. A staff favorite as a winter squash, this year we evaluated this pepo squash as a summer squash as well.  To our surprise, ‘Dostal’ turned out to be a favorite 2012 summer squash - with its dense flesh and mildly sweet flavor. It went on to win accolades again in the 2012 winter squash taste evaluation for its buttery, smooth texture and complex, rich flavor. ‘Dostal’ has proven that we cannot make assumptions about the versatile varieties in our collection based on the limitations of more modern, highly specialized varieties.

How to Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds

How to Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Heirloom tomatoes are the highlight of summer—beautiful colors and bountiful flavors! Preserve the bounty for next year by saving seed of your favorite tomato varieties. You only need a few fruit to get started, so watch the slideshow below and learn how. By doing so you'll carry on a gardening tradition that is many generations old.

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You'll never look at a tomato the same way again

Tomato Cloche

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to attend the Seed Savers Exchange Tomato Tasting—well wait no further.  From a planning perspective, SSE staff members are usually pretty nervous this week, biting our nails as the tomato harvest comes (we want to make sure there is enough for everyone). That is not the case this year. With the warm and early season we are up to our elbows in tomatoes—including many never-before sampled varieties. In fact, in addition to the over 40 commercial varieties, we will be sampling over 20 varieties from the SSE Collection that are only available through the exchange. So come see, taste, and experience tomato diversity in action this weekend from 1-4 PM at Heritage Farm.  Here’s a sneak peak at this year's event:

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Tomato Tasting and Seed Saving Workshop

tomato tasting 2011 JT 060

Seed Savers Exchange near Decorah, Iowa, is hosting a free Tomato Tasting and Seed Saving Workshop on Saturday, September 1, 2012. The Tomato Tasting will run from 1:00 – 4:00 pm, offering visitors the opportunity to sample a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes and learn how to save tomato seeds. Dester tomato image

The event will be held at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center. More than 40 varieties of tomatoes of all colors and sizes will be available, including yellow cherry, pink beefsteak, striped stuffing, red grape and green roma’s. This year’s tasting will include 10 rare varieties from Seed Savers Exchange’s seed bank collection. Last year, Dester, a beefsteak tomato from the rare varieties was voted most popular.

The Oneota Food Co-op in Decorah is sponsoring this year’s Salsa Contest. Limited to 25 entrants, applications are available at the Co-op, by calling 563-382-4666, and online at www.oneotacoop.com. The registration deadline is Monday, August 27. The co-op will also be providing food for purchase during the event.

Tomato tasters sampling over 40 varieties of tomatoesThere will be tomato seed saving workshops beginning at 12:00 noon featuring Seed Savers Exchange staff as well as tomato advisor and expert Craig LeHoullier. LeHoullier will give two talks, Tasting the Biodiversity of Tomatoes and Tomatoes with Great Stories and Great Flavors. Visitors will be able to tour Seed Savers Exchange’s tomato gardens. Guided hayride tours begin at 12:00 noon and are scheduled for every 45 minutes.

“This family event gives people the opportunity to experience the wide diversity of tomatoes available, and learn how to improve their own gardening experience,” says Diane Ott Whealy, co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange. The event will include music with special activities planned for kids.

All events are free to the public.

Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange operates an 890-acre farm in northeast Iowa where thousands of rare fruit, vegetable, and other plant varieties are regenerated and preserved in a central collection. Its non-profit mission is conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. For information visit www.seedsavers.org

 

For more information contact:

Shannon Carmody Seed Savers Exchange shannon@seedsavers.org 563-387-5630