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Thu Jul 31, 2014, 08:36 PM

How A Seed Saver (DU's own NRaleighLiberal) Discovered One Of Our Favorite Tomatoes

Last edited Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:17 PM - Edit history (1)


Marta and I had our first Cherokee Purple Tomato tonight. Organically grown and delicious! It came from here: http://www.iowanafarm.com/

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/08/12/211372152/how-a-seed-saver-discovered-one-of-our-favorite-tomatoes




A Cherokee purple tomato grown in Alaska in 2011.

by ELIZA BARCLAY August 14, 201312:31 PM ET

Sherry Shiesl Tatiana's TOMATObase

Fortunately for those of us who are suckers for novelty, every year fruits and vegetables seem to come in more bewitching colors, shapes and flavors. Lately, we've been tickled by the cotton candy grape and the vibrant orange Turkish eggplant. (Egg yolks can be ghostly white, too, but that's another story.)

If you go to the farmers market this time of year, tomatoes are strutting their stuff in all sorts of glorious and quirky hues: green striped, white, pink, even purplish-brown. They boast intriguing names, like Mortgage Lifter, Arkansas Traveler and Pink Berkeley Tie Dye. Some are true heirlooms, passed down over decades or centuries. Others are brand new to the world, the progeny of the latest cross-breeding experiments.

We got to wondering just who, besides farmers, is to thank for this expanding panoply. And we learned that while there are many professional breeders tinkering with the desirable traits that show up in the new varieties, amateur breeders passionate seed savers and collectors also play a vital role in discovering fruit and vegetable varieties guarded and nurtured by families over generations. Every now and then, these amateurs convince seed companies that the rest of the world will want to enjoy something they've discovered.

Craig LeHoullier, a retired chemist from Raleigh, N.C., can take credit for introducing us to the Cherokee Purple tomato, one of the most popular heirlooms grown and sold today. You'd be forgiven if your first impression of this fruit, with its ungainly bulges and tones of brown, green and purple, was dismissive. But its flavor consistently knocks socks off, with its balance of sweet, acid and savory even a hint of smoke.

FULL story at link.

Be sure and say thanks to NRaleighLiberal for doing this.

OS

53 replies, 8423 views

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Arrow 53 replies Author Time Post
Reply How A Seed Saver (DU's own NRaleighLiberal) Discovered One Of Our Favorite Tomatoes (Original post)
Omaha Steve Jul 2014 OP
uppityperson Jul 2014 #1
MineralMan Jul 2014 #2
dixiegrrrrl Jul 2014 #3
burrowowl Jul 2014 #28
dixiegrrrrl Aug 2014 #39
malaise Jul 2014 #4
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2014 #5
Omaha Steve Jul 2014 #6
BrotherIvan Jul 2014 #8
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2014 #11
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2014 #23
Plucketeer Aug 2014 #31
NRaleighLiberal Aug 2014 #33
blm Aug 2014 #41
BrotherIvan Jul 2014 #7
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2014 #10
BrotherIvan Jul 2014 #13
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2014 #14
BrotherIvan Jul 2014 #17
Tanuki Aug 2014 #29
NRaleighLiberal Aug 2014 #30
southerncrone Aug 2014 #35
mopinko Aug 2014 #43
Omaha Steve Aug 2014 #38
B Calm Jul 2014 #16
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2014 #21
Gormy Cuss Aug 2014 #52
boston bean Jul 2014 #18
laundry_queen Jul 2014 #19
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2014 #22
PeoViejo Aug 2014 #42
LiberalLoner Aug 2014 #37
Habibi Jul 2014 #9
malokvale77 Jul 2014 #20
awoke_in_2003 Jul 2014 #12
Sissyk Jul 2014 #15
madokie Jul 2014 #24
AllyCat Jul 2014 #25
Curmudgeoness Jul 2014 #26
curlyred Jul 2014 #27
NRaleighLiberal Aug 2014 #32
Cracklin Charlie Aug 2014 #44
NRaleighLiberal Aug 2014 #45
southerncrone Aug 2014 #34
ladyVet Aug 2014 #36
IdaBriggs Aug 2014 #40
Omaha Steve Aug 2014 #46
wryter2000 Aug 2014 #50
secondvariety Aug 2014 #47
Dr Hobbitstein Aug 2014 #49
Dr Hobbitstein Aug 2014 #48
wryter2000 Aug 2014 #51
Omaha Steve Aug 2014 #53

Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 08:46 PM

1. I remember my first Cherokee Purple tomato plant

and now it really makes me smile even more.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 08:46 PM

2. Lovely. A little fleur de sal, and I'd dig in.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 08:49 PM

3. We have them too!

We get all our heirloom seeds from this company, which also works with Seeds Savers.
http://www.rareseeds.com/

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #3)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 11:56 PM

28. Thanks for Link!

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Response to burrowowl (Reply #28)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 10:58 AM

39. They have a magazine, which is gorgeous, and a great gift.

Both the magazine and the catalog foster a real sense of community.
The owners are a young couple totally dedicated to heirloom seeds and gardening.
NOT connected to the corporate world.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 08:51 PM

4. Ours aren't as lovely as that one

but we'll be eating home grown in four weeks.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:02 PM

5. Hey...I know that guy!



Here it is growing in my Raleigh garden in 2002....first year I owned a digital camera!

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #5)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:09 PM

6. I had no idea when I posted this


That you are you!

OS

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Response to Omaha Steve (Reply #6)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:11 PM

8. Maybe a headline change to celebrate an awesome DUer?

Just a suggestion. But I am in awe.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Reply #6)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:18 PM

11. I am I - sounds like my favorite Dr Seuss book, Happy Birthday to You!

yup...blushing here, but it is me!

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Response to Omaha Steve (Reply #6)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:59 PM

23. I talked about it a bit on this local NPR radio spot

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #23)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 12:31 AM

31. We've been growing these for at least a decade - maybe longer!

 

We typically grow 40 different tomato varieties ever year. If we sell any, it's to friends and a couple of local restaurants. Cherokee Purple is a winner every year!

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Response to Plucketeer (Reply #31)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 12:33 AM

33. You know what's odd - when I first grew it in Pennsylvania, it was very good -

but it wasn't nearly as good as when it grows here in NC. Then again, could have just been the season - it got a late start, too.

I think in my 30 years of heirloom tomato growing, I've tried 1500-2000 different varieties - I've always got multiple projects going on!

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #23)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 12:47 PM

41. Have seen your efforts on TWCNews here, too.

Lest anyone has forgotten.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #5)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:10 PM

7. You mean you created the tomato?

I always admire your sig photos, but woah. That's unfreakingbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!

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Response to BrotherIvan (Reply #7)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:18 PM

10. Didn't create it - it was sent to me as an unnamed variety with a brief history

I grew it, named it and sent it to a seed company....also listed it with the Seed Savers Exchange. I am staggered at how it caught on!

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #10)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:22 PM

13. I just read the whole article and even more impressed

I don't believe I've ever tasted this tomato, but now I would just love to. And when you write your book, please let us all know as I would definitely order a copy. Or maybe a weekly gardening column; do you by chance have a blog?

Good on ya for doing what you love and sharing it with the world!

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Response to BrotherIvan (Reply #13)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:24 PM

14. book is out in December - my avatar is the cover!

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #14)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:34 PM

17. You are Super Tomato Man!

Your bountiful harvest makes me so jealous! And I love your cats. I have two Maine Coons as well and they pretty much lay around all day too.

Thanks for the links!

ETA: One last question, it looks like most of your plants are in pots? WOW!

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #14)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 12:28 AM

29. Do you ever come to the Tomato Art Festival in Nashville?

You should have a book signing there next year!
http://www.tomatoartfest.com/

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Response to Tanuki (Reply #29)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 12:30 AM

30. I will let DUers know where I will be, when -

my publisher tells me they will have me on the road for the first half of next year...yikes! Thanks for the heads up...I will pass that on to my publicist at Storey.

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Response to Tanuki (Reply #29)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 01:16 AM

35. Excellent idea!

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Response to Tanuki (Reply #29)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 08:08 PM

43. he promised to do one in chicago.

hoping to do a tomato tasting, too.
at my little farm.
right craig?

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #14)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 10:23 AM

38. I'll be buying one


I'm glad I made this post.



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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #10)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:27 PM

16. Great name! How did you come up with that name?

 

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Response to B Calm (Reply #16)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:56 PM

21. Fellow who mailed me the seeds said it was a variety given to his neighbors

by Cherokee Indians "100 years ago" (this was in 1990) - Seviereville, TN. I grew the tomato, it was the first chlorphyll-retention (aka "black" - in this case clear skinned, hence on the purple side) I'd heard of - so I took the lineage and the color, called it Cherokee Purple, and sent it to Southern exposure Seed Exchange.

So weird to walk through farmers markets and see it and realize that it is kinda my fault, in a way!



Seriously, I've been a very lucky gardener - so many people sent me so many great family heirlooms over the years - I got to name and introduce Lillian's Yellow Heirloom, ensure Anna Russian became well known, and so many others - the 1985-1995 period was really when heirlooms started to enter the mainstream and more gardeners started to focus on them...

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #21)

Mon Aug 4, 2014, 01:57 PM

52. It's totally your fault

and I'm going to blame you every time I eat one from my own garden.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #10)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:39 PM

18. Hi, will these tomatoes grow in all regions?

Specifically New England?

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Response to boston bean (Reply #18)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:54 PM

19. I'm sure they would.

There is a seed catalogue in Canada that carries it. They don't usually carry stuff that doesn't grow here, so I think it would grow in your climate (you may have to start them a bit earlier is all).

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Response to boston bean (Reply #18)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:56 PM

22. My father was reknown in his Pawtucket RI neighborhood for his Cherokee Purples!

I sent him seeds, sometimes plants - late in life he really got into it - was great to share a hobby with him!

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Response to boston bean (Reply #18)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 07:15 PM

42. In Maine it varies

 

I first grew Cherokee Purple around 1995 and have had great results, as it is fairly early for a Heirloom. I try to stick with varieties that mature in 75 Days or less after transplanting. I grew them again last Year, but they suffered an attack of Late Blight and didn't fare well.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #5)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 05:09 AM

37. Thank you, we have these in our small garden, best tomatoes ever!!!!

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:13 PM

9. I haven't tried all the heirloom tomatoes available around here,

but of those I have done, CP is my absolute favorite. I'm growing Brandywines this year (the plants were free, so why not?), and can't wait until they're ripe!

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Response to Habibi (Reply #9)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:55 PM

20. You will love them

I've been eating them for 3 weeks here in Dallas. All I can say is, OMG. I started them from seed and they have been fabulous.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:21 PM

12. I want to try one of these so bad. nt

 

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 09:26 PM

15. Wonderful!

Our own Tomato Man in the news!!!

I LOVE Cherokee Purple!

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 10:04 PM

24. Been eating Cherokee Purple for a few years now

ours this year are as big as a slice of bread. Cherokee purple and Carolina gold is our two favs

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 10:13 PM

25. OMG we love these! None planted this year

As I usually start from seed and was running for school board this spring and had no time. This cultivar was not available from my local garden center thus spring. Eager to start these seeds next year!

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 10:17 PM

26. Yes, let's thank NRaleighLiberal for all the work he does.

He has put his heart and soul into tomatoes.....and we are all beneficiaries of his efforts.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 10:36 PM

27. Made fresh pasta sauce with these tonight!

Yum! Consistently one of our highest yielding tomatoes. Started from seed in February.

Thank you so much!!

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Response to curlyred (Reply #27)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 12:32 AM

32. If you like Cherokee Purple, be sure to try Cherokee Green....

It appeared in my garden in 1997, from a single plant of Cherokee Chocolate....which itself appeared in 1995 from a single plant of Cherokee Purple!

Single best tomato we've eaten this year!

Johnny's Selected Seeds has it, as well as Victory Seeds and others, I am sure.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #32)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 12:48 AM

44. Sorry I'm so late!

Cherokee Purple is my favorite tomato of all! So cool that you had a part in saving such a delicious variety. But I have a question...

I got to the market a little too late last week, and my favorite heirloom growers were a little low on stock. They were all out of Cherokees, so the guy recommended a container of fairly small (2in dia), quite round, blemish-free tomato, with coloring very much like the cherokee purple. The grower told me that this tomato was so good, that next year, he is going to plant his whole field with just them.

Well, come to find out, he wasn't just blowin' smoke! They were so delicious...dark and juicy, and a flavor that almost had a hint of smokiness. Fantastic on pizza! He told me the name; but, of course, I forgot. Now this week I have to go out of town, and will miss the market.

Do you have any idea what that tomato's name was? Maybe if you mention it, it will jog my memory.

Thanks.

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Response to Cracklin Charlie (Reply #44)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 08:49 AM

45. Howdy! There is probably no way of knowing for sure...

The "black" tomato craze - first Cherokee Purple and Black Krim and Price's Purple in 1991, followed by a whole slew from the former USSR - including Black from Tula, Southern Night, Black Sea Man - later Black Prince and Paul Robeson - most recently Carbon and Black Cherry, unstable discoveries like Black Brandywine, mystery varieties like Vorlon, who knows where they came from types like the small round brown Bruno Rosso/Kumado, newly created ones like Pale Perfect Purple - came as the interest in seed saving exploded (aided by ebay, which brought lots of smaller seed sellers)...

Even though tomatoes typically pollinate themselves, bees do visit the flowers, so crosses can occur. Relatively inexperienced/new seed savers - or just the odds of so many people saving them - mean that we are seeing lots of accidental crosses, which lead to new, unstable varieties.

As an example, I grew some Arkansas Traveler plants from seed sent to me by a friend - he saved it. I got a mix of regular looking and dwarf plants - I grew out one of the typical tall ones, and my seedling customers of course did as well. We are experiencing a mix of results - round pink (expected), round purple, short pink - clearly we are seeing segregation due to an earlier accidental cross.

All of this means that the smaller round purple is probably not an heirloom or available commercial variety, but the result of a cross between Cherokee Purple and ??? - he may have gotten lucky with the one you bought and will have trouble recreating it on a large scale (well, until someone does some stability work on it for a few years) - or he may have gotten lucky and grown a mutation for round smaller fruit that will be stable.

Best thing to do - save some seed from one of the tomatoes and grow it out (if you want to send me some, I will try it next year and see what I get).

When I go to Farmers Markets I see all sorts of errors - signs saying tomato is variety X, but it is clearly not. It's OK since even if a cross or mix up or mistake it will be very good to eat - but for historical accuracy/tracking purposes, the whole heirloom/story/variety thing has become quite a tangled web...which I really enjoy sorting out!

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 01:13 AM

34. We grew these for the first time this year, too.

Finally convinced hubby that we no longer needed to grow GMO seeds he had been getting from our local co-op. We had terrible luck w/garden the last 3 yrs. When he planted these seeds in the hotbed, he also planted some coop Bradley seeds he had saved. The difference in the plants was stunning. The Cherokee Purps were so much healthier & more vibrant. (I think I made a believer out of him. ) I must admit I was taken aback by the unusual shapes we've encountered from these Purps. Many remind me of a brain! The flavor is delicious though!

We got our seeds from Baker Creek Seed in MO.

THANKS, NRaleighLiberal!

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 04:19 AM

36. Oh, fabulous!

I hope to do Cherokee Purple next year. I grew it once before, but didn't have optimal gardening conditions and didn't have much experience. The very few tomatoes I got were so good, though.

This year I have Homestead, Mr. Stripey, Parks Whopper, Big Boy (?) and two others I can't remember the name of, one of them a cherry/grape tomato. The Parks Whopper and Big Boy were my mother's choice, and so far have produced nice tomatoes.

I've been processing tomatoes like crazy for the past few days, getting ready to make sauce. I'm putting a lot of the cherry/grape tomatoes away as diced tomatoes, at least the ones I'm not eating.

The garden is going to need to be much, much bigger next year.

I may be thinking of someone else, but weren't you at one time over on the Garden Web, NRL? I remember reading about Cherokee Purple there, which is why I tried it when I found some plants (at Lowe's).

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 11:23 AM

40. Just tried to pre-order the book on Amazon and got a weird error message.

 

Hopefully it will be easily resolved - THANK YOU to NCRaleigh!

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Response to IdaBriggs (Reply #40)

Sat Aug 2, 2014, 07:39 PM

46. PPPSSSSTTTT


DU is boycotting Amazon at Stephen Colberts request. Use Powells: http://www.powells.com/

Info on the boycott: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/stephen-colbert-tirade-boycott-against-amazon-com/

Use this link before you buy please: http://ilwulocal5.com/ Click here and 7.5% of every sale goes directly to support the workers of ILWU Local 5.

OS

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Response to Omaha Steve (Reply #46)

Mon Aug 4, 2014, 01:49 PM

50. Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble is a blue company.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 10:17 AM

47. What a great post!

I wonder how they'd do in Florida.

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Response to secondvariety (Reply #47)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 12:09 PM

49. I grew them in FL...

 

They grow just fine...

However, I found that the caterpillars REALLY liked that plant. After my second yield, I came home to find my plant was nothing but sticks, and a couple really fat caterpillars nearby.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Sun Aug 3, 2014, 12:07 PM

48. Cherokee Purple is delicious.

 

My buddy got a bunch of heirloom seeds awhile back, and he gave me some seedlings from his garden. I grew some Cherokee Purple, Cherokee Chocolate, and Green Zebra varieties. They were all quite tasty.

I haven't been much of a gardener the last year or so, however... Haven't had the extra time to take care of the garden. So, I've been buying and enjoying the TastiLee tomatoes they sell at Publix. So good.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Mon Aug 4, 2014, 01:50 PM

51. Wish I could grow those

The only tomato that'll ripen for me in Oakland is early girl. Luckily, they're delicious.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Original post)

Sun Aug 31, 2014, 10:49 AM

53. Kick

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