Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Heirloom Tomato That Keeps on Giving, With Love

Guest Blogger, Barbara Schwartz

My husband has been telling me for years that in order to be a culinary success, I must cook with love.  It has taken a long time to fully buy into this theory, but alas, he is right.  Use great ingredients and cook from scratch.  That is why there is a large pot on the stove at this moment softly bubbling with precious ingredients of spaghetti sauce, the cooking base of which started from seed.  Literally.  Learning to grow a garden with love occurred long before learning to cook with love.

A year ago I discovered heirloom tomatoes may be grown from seed as the tomatoes grow true, reproducing the exact same fruit, unlike a hybrid variety.  I learned this from watching an employee at Trader Joe's saving tomato seeds on a paper towel as a worker chopped up an heirloom at their cooking station.  So saving seeds from my favorite jumbo red and yellow-red I simply threw them in the garden, wet, fresh out of the tomatoes.  And they grew.  All of them.  Perhaps 50 plants.  Amazing!  I put them in large planter pots away from the garden, where the squirrels would hopefully not discover them.  Tomatoes are autogamous plants.  This means pollination of a flower is by its own pollen and cross-pollination is not needed for fruit production.  No bees required!  A gentle shake of the stem will spur pollination.  It turned out to be a good thing having so many plants, as heirlooms have a low yield as well as a long maturation period.

At the end of last summer's growing season I again saved seeds from the fruit, but this time dried them on paper towels and planted them this past spring, thus arriving at today's pot on the stove of some 50-plus heirloom tomatoes stewing away with all of the ingredients of Italian spaghetti sauce.  Tomorrow will be pasta-making day, a lesson learned from good friends Sylvia and John who showed my husband and me the wonders of fabulous homemade pasta.  And I shall make Italian bread.  Nothing compares to fresh bread, straight out of the oven.  The sauce will mellow overnight and be better in 24 hours' time.

Oh, one more note about the heirloom tomato plants.  Having given my sister approximately 25 of the thrown-in-the-garden tomato plants in spring of 2010, she re-potted them into an enormous planter pot and then never rid herself of the remaining plants when the fruit season concluded.  As a result my sister had tomatoes in mid-spring this year, having started the growing season with mature plants.  She was basking in tomatoes as I was still watching my second-season-from-seed plants mature, months away from bearing fruit.  Lesson learned.  I can save the plants!


  1. Thank you for contributing! You've inspired me to salvage seeds from the tomatoes I bought at our farmer's market. Save some spaghetti sauce for me.

  2. Mmmmmmm.....makes me long for summer tomatoes.


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