Editing to add this - seedling pick up at the house availability for the rest of the week....today any time, tomorrow any time. Not around on Saturday - watch for my Sunday blog for that day into next week.....
Each season we have loads of requests for a few varieties - especially Sungold and Cherokee Purple. And I am really delighted that many of you come back year after year for some others - of course the big reds (Aker's West Virginia, Andrew Rahart Jumbo Red) and pinks (Brandywine, Stump of the World). And it is also very pleasing to see how many of you find Little Lucky and Lucky Cross as delicious and worth growing as I do.
But it is a really long list of varieties - in fact, for many of you who don't hold the pursuit of heirloom tomatoes as central to life as I do, browsing our little market space must be daunting, and looking at our printed lists a bit like being presented with a long wine list at a restaurant.
Some of the varieties we offer have nice stories, and others (that are more recent creations) have interesting stories. Below I will take things a step beyond our brief descriptions and provide a bit more background on some of those tomatoes that are far less well-known.
Gallo Plum and Giant Syrian - Back in 1990, when I was just barely into my heirloom obsession, it was common to list seed shares in a few garden magazines. One of the first really good ones was Gardens For All (later renamed National Gardening), and I ended up making a great connection to a West Virginia tomato grower named Charlotte Mullens. Charlotte ended up giving me dozens of varieties of tomatoes that were not at all common, being family heirlooms shared with her by gardeners all over the country. Two of the best were Gallo Plum and Giant Syrian. The histories of these are somewhere in my office in a drawer full of correspondences, and I will need to dig those out some day....but suffice to say that I was delighted with both varieties. Gallo Plum is very similar to many of the long, pepper shaped, indeterminate paste varieties, of which Opalka may be the best known. It is very dense meated, with few seeds, grows very well in our NC climate, and produces well all season - a superb sauce tomato, but also equally fine for canning and using in salsas and salads. Giant Syrian is quite a unique variety, and I am pleased to be offering it for the very first time this year using seed from tomatoes grown over 10 years ago. Unlike most heart shaped varieties (which are pink), Giant Syrian is red - the color of Celebrity and Better Boy. It can grow to be very large, often one pound or more, has very few seeds, and has a wonderful, sweet mild flavor. Memory tells me it did quite well growing here in NC, and I look forward to having it on my garden again this year. Curiously, it is a variety that the Seed Savers Exchange sells in their catalog; the original seed they obtained from me must have been crossed, because they describe it as a large regular shaped pink tomato. I sent them seed last year and noted on a visit there that they now have the real deal - and the listing in their catalog should be revised to the authentic tomato some time soon (it is a topic we will discuss when I visit there this coming September).
Caitlin's Lucky Stripe and Large Lucky Red - The Lucky line of tomatoes is a gift that just keeps on giving. Because the accidental cross seems to be so "wide" (a large pink potato leaf - Brandywine - bee-crossed with a medium yellow/pink striped tomato - Tad - itself a cross between a large yellow/red bicolor and a medium red/gold stripe - and perhaps some pollen from a pink heart tomato, Anna Russian, mixed in for good measure!), the diversity in the cross - hence the possibilities - is remarkable. Lucky Cross and Little Lucky were the first two varieties named from that cross, and they have become pretty well known. Well, in 2008, I was perusing the tomato grow outs at Coon Rock Farm and noted that one of the Little Lucky plants that they obtained from me had medium, round pink fruit with vertical gold stripes - clearly some remaining instability was expressing itself in a really lovely (and delicious!) way. So I plucked a tomato, saved seed and grew it in 2009 - seeing the same result and christening the variety Caitlin's Lucky Stripe (after my daughter). It is quite likely that it is not yet fully stable - a request is that anyone who obtained the variety from me this year let me know what turned out. If you got the round pink fruit with gold stripes, I'd love a fruit or some saved seed. I am growing it myself as well and will report on what I find. As far as Large Lucky Red, in 2009 I grew out a plant of Lucky Cross from seed saved in 2004. The plant was potato leaf and produced fruit of the appropriate shape and size...but instead of being a yellow/red swirled bicolor, it ripened a nice, deep red - again, the color of Better Boy and Celebrity. The flavor was wonderful - and I was pleased to find a red fruited large potato leaf variety with that distinctive Brandywine type flavor - hence Large Lucky Red was born. Again - it is likely that this is not yet completely stable, so reports on the results from those of you growing it this year would be valued....and I am also growing it, so will have something to tell you about later in the season. And for both of these - if it turns out differently, the unexpected tomatoes should taste great - that seems to be a consistent characteristic of all products of the Little Lucky and Lucky Cross families.
OK - a bit of history/background for you all. I noticed the coffee is running low....so off to roast on this cloudy, cool morning!