Lexy again, double trouble with the blog posts tonight…I am apparently the person in my family that you can buy gardening books for Christmas and know I’ll be a happy camper. My Aunt got me Craig LeHoullier’s new book, Epic Tomatoes. Obviously, a great choice! Loads of beautiful pictures, variety descriptions, and info on growing and saving seed. There’s even a chapter on breeding new varieties! And Craig knows a lot about this particular subject, as he is responsible for many dozen new “heirloom” favorites, like Green Cherokee and several Brandywine varieties.
His coolest project (in my opinion), is breeding Dwarf Tomato varieties. True dwarf tomatoes are indeterminates and will continue to grow and set new flowers up until frost (or disease) kills them. What distinguishes them is that they don’t get more than 4 feet tall, and it takes them a while to do that. The upside is that they will very happily grow in a five gallon bucket on your patio. They are perfect for gardeners who have limited space but want great heirloom flavors.
Craig partnered with amateur breeders in Australia, so they could get two generations of tomatoes per year. In 6 years, they’ve stabilized over fifty new varieties of dwarf tomatoes. It starts with crossing an heirloom variety with a dwarf variety. Previous to this project, true dwarf varieties were almost extinct, but Craig was able to find seeds in a USDA seed bank. The old variety they started with didn’t taste very good, but they’re selecting for some great flavors.
You can find a huge selection of dwarf varieties over at Victory Seed. This project is special because these new varieties are all open pollinated, meaning you can save the seed. Craig’s favorite so far is the Rosella Purple. This tomato is supposed to look and taste like a Cherokee Purple. I grow in raised beds, so I am looking forward to experimenting with dwarf tomatoes in my garden!
Craig says that starts of dwarf tomatoes sell like hotcakes at the farmers market. His customers can’t get enough of these compact, flavorful varieties!