Monsoon Planting: Braeburn X unknown Apples (Malus domestica)

December 31, 2015, I planted seeds from a Braeburn apple. I not only hope some of these seedlings survive and fruit, but also produce a good cider apple.

Braeburn has unknown parentage, it was a seedling escapee from an orchard with both Granny Smith and Lady Hamilton apples. It has a robust flavor with a spicy hint. I have no idea what apple fertilized the Braeburn, but most commercial orchards use crabapples.

I am pleased to have five seedlings, because they will each have a different expression of the family traits, just like any 5 children of two human parents. Still, a sharp, a sweet, and a [bittersharp] combination is likely to produce a good cider apple that will add depth to my hard cider experiments.

I am pleased that they came up in just over a month.

These trees will be planted uphill at the edge of an oak hedge to protect them from mule deer depredation. When there are not enough acorns for winter dormancy, bears like apples second. I am pleased with apple trees up the hill for bear, deer, and other wildlife to eat. Depending on the flavor combination, I may also have an apple that is useful to me. A complex flavor that enriches hard cider would be appreciated.

This, obviously is a long term project. I will be pleased if I get a nice apple out of it. I have a dwarf Granny Smith and dwarf Honeycrisp that will have apples in a year or three. I have a list of others to add as well.  But long term, an apple on its own rootstock will have much better drought tolerance because of its deep taproot and larger root system.  It is also more wind tolerant, a must have here.

My two dwarf trees will go into my raised flower beds for coddling.  They, too might cross and produce something that might look like a sweet sharp.  or a crabapple might get them both!

When everything gets older, I might try a hand pollination.  In my free time of course.  Perhaps these trees might become landrace apple trees for my food forest and join my circular economy.

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Fall Planting, Garlic

No cook’s garden is complete without garlic. No herb garden is either, since all Alliums, including garlic, are old time favorites for remedies. If you cook with them, you get some of those health benefits on a regular basis.

Like onions, I interplant garlic for its repellent abilities with deer, rabbits, etc.  Even many insects steer away.  Honeybees like it, and it can make the honey taste off if there is too much.  If that is a problem, remove the scapes.

In Texas and Seattle I grew softneck garlics.  This group includes the standard garlic cloves in every US store.  It also includes those pretty braided garlic chains.  Before I moved to the mountains,  I raised softneck garlic on my apartment patio in Albuquerque.  Plant plenty, because garlic greens are great.  The softneck varieties are Allium sativus var. sativum.  They adapt to a wider range of conditions and store longer.

Now that I live in the New Mexico mountains I am shifting to hardneck varieties, Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon.  These are less productive, but have a greater variety of flavors.  The flowerstalks, called scapes, are prized for their delicate flavor and are delicious in stir fry dishes or salads.  Removing the scapes encourages clove production, so eating them will not hurt matters.  Garlic stops growing June 22 when the days get shorter, and starts pulling energy from the top and storing energy in the bulb.

Hardneck garlics come in three distinct groups called Rocambole, Purple Stripe, and Porcelain.  I will try one of each.

Ontario Purple Trillium Serpent is an heirloom Rocambole prized for its great flavor.  It is very cold hardy and an early season variety that does not store long.  Rocambole are the great French cooking garlics.  They are sweeter and less sulphurous than other garlics and are best when raw garlic is needed.  This is a nice garlic for rubbing a wood salad bowl before serving.  For a Rocambole, Ontario Purple Trillium Serpent is a bit hot, but it has a great spicy flavor to it.

Chesnok Red is a hardneck Marbled Purple Stripe variety.  It is an heirloom from Shvelisi, Republic of Georgia.  I ordered this one because it is very vigorous in cold climates and has a distinctive lingering taste.  Plus I wanted to see the brilliant red cloves on the inside.  I won’t see them soon, because I ordered bulb is and they take two years to mature… speed dating it’s not.

German White Georgian Fire is a workhorse Porcelain variety.  It is a good survivor, very winter hardy and withstands heavy freeze – thaw cycles.  Its flavor is supposed to be good, it can get as large as Elephant Garlic, and stores up to 10 months at room temperature.  This is better sounding by the minute.  Georgian Fire has a high allicin content, making it a premier medicinal garlic.  It helps lower cholesterol,  increase circulation, and boosts the immune system.

Garlics are from the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This area is still where garlic plants breed and set seed.  They are unlikely to set seed unless over 4000 feet.

I did read “scientific” research saying that out of 200 varieties tested, only 10 produced seed, and only one produced pollen.  It also said purple anthers indicate fertility and yellow anthers are sterile.  I put quotes around scientific because it did not include methods, varieties, location grown, or any information that would allow you to reproduce the test.  It read like an abstract but included nothing else.

I mention this paper because I live at about 7500 feet and am curious whether I would be able to get seed reproduction here.  Are they sterile or will they reproduce under their native conditions?  I saw other research that included forcing reproduction in a laboratory, but the seeds would not sprout.

From my naturalist viewpoint, many native plants do not set seed every year, if conditions do not suit, they give it a rest.  Others think that garlic has been reproduced vegetatively for so long, its genetic makeup might be messed up.  I did not see proof of this and I have never seen garlic plants that look messed up.  Just sayin.

I ordered one wild Allium, and am unsure whether it is a garlic or onion.  Allium canadense var. canadense.  It likes cool temperatures, and has bulbils (probably var. canadense).  The bulbils produce a nice onion pickle, so I might include it in my dill pickles for a change.  I read contradicting reports on this one, a good indicator that it has great genetic variability.  I had something on my 14 acres in Texas, growing in a shady ditch, that sure looked like the photos of this one.  Tasted like a mild garlic.   This one will produce seed and I hope it naturalizes and thrives.  Another requirement for my Food Forest and circular economy is permanent garlic.

In all, I look forward to trying these garlic plants in my mountain garden.  As a cook, garlic is a must have.  For my herbal garden, ditto.  In all the years I have grown garlic I have never had hardneck varieties, I expect a treat.

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Spring Planting, Onions

Neither cook’s garden nor herbal garden can be complete without onions.  Their flavor and nutritional punch add immeasurably to a self-sufficient homestead and their medicinal properties are legion.

Onions are either biennial or perennial, and the onion sets from box stores come in white yellow and red  and are biennials.  Not a bad deal, less than $2 for 80 yellow onions.  Even if you eat some as green onions, one or two bags are a year’s supply for most families.

Less common in the US are French Red Shallots (Allium cepa var. aggregatum).  Red Shallots contain high levels of vitamin B6 and minerals, but also more flavonoids and phenols than other onions.  These elite little onions are perennial, buy once and keep forever.  Hardy in USA zones 2-9 which means that they last forever in my New Mexico garden, just like they did in my Texas and Washington gardens.  Like all Alliums they bloom prettily even when mixed into your flower beds.  If you want to store them, they last over six months under good conditions.  I interplant these around my other vegetables, because all onion and garlic plants repel pests.

I’itoi’s Onion is a landrace clumping onion that was an old Allium cepa variety brought in by early Jesuit Missionaries.  It was found naturalized on Babaquivari Mountain in Arizona. I’Itoi means Elder Brother, the creator deity of the Tohono O’odham tribe, who is called Man in the Maze.  I just ordered these and hope I can get them to naturalize here as well.

For a second chance at a naturalized bunching onion, I have Evergreen Hardy Onion, another perennial.  It is also Allium cepa and is called a true multiplier onion.  These are seeds.  In Texas and Washington I had wild onions lurking in my yard and garden.  I have no idea what their Latin names were, but I ate them all year long.  I hope I get a landrace bunching onion here.

I have grown Egyptian Walking Onions, but they are sterile.  I only want genetically viable plants in my garden… darn!  They are cute.

Indoors, I have Chives.  I have kept this pot going for 4 years.  Chives also grow outside, where I kept them in Dallas and Seattle.  There they are available all winter; here, they have been living in my kitchen window and just moved to my indoor garden shelves.  All year long these are my go to onion for salads.  I snip them on top of soups also.

Allium cepa varieties all cross when close.  Since Shallots and bunching onions  propagate vegetatively, they maintain their genetic material.  If I get a naturalized cross, I may have my own landrace onions.  Allium cepa has no known wild varieties, but it can naturalize and become a landrace variety.

I ordered Rakkyo (Allium chinense), a mild and fresh tasting perennial bunching onion used in most Asian cuisines.  It is commonly pickled in rice vinegar and served as a side dish.  Although this is a native to China, it has naturalized in Japan, Russia, Mongolia, and Korea.  It is a hugely productive variety and i look forward to planting it here in the mountains and using it to accent my summer stir-fry meals.

Red Beard (Allium fistulosum) is a Japanese bunching onion with vivid red stems much loved in Asian cooking.  It matures in 40 to 50 days.  This is a beautiful onion typical of Asian cuisine.

Now that I am retired I might take a cooking class… Vietnamese being my favorite Asian cuisine.  My only training was from my former Chinese boss, who also taught me a few words in Mandarin.  what she gave was a general concept that works no matter what the ingredients are, which varies from location to location.

I learned to cook many Mexican dishes while living in Mexico.  Yum!  Living in New Mexico is the ultimate, and I use the onion sets for Mexican food.  I already bought sets, but in a week or two I will look through Seed Savers Catalog for good varieties to grow from seed.

Onions were given to Pharoah’s slaves, a couple pounds a day, to keep them strong and healthy.  They rioted when the allotment was missing!






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Seed Saving and Cytoplasmic Male Sterility (CMS)

Big seed companies hybridize plants using CMS then claim they perform better than heirloom plants. I have never found improved performance to be verifiable, but corporations like Monsanto sell a lot of hybrid seeds on the promise of it.  That and photoshopped pictures of hybrids!

Since I am advocating seed saving and developing landrace seeds,  when you are buying seeds is a good time to address issues around GMO seeds.  A little caution is in order.

The reason I have not used hybrids for a couple decades has been because they do not breed true to type. I decided that without a full sense of the mechanics of hybrid technology when I was 20 or so… about 40 years ago and before hybrids were so prevalent.

I have moved a few times… maybe more than a few, I fixed up a number of houses for resale when I was younger and sturdier.   I also fixed up the gardens.  New seed varieties, more catalogs from ever bigger seed companies.  More hybrids, and less space given to heirlooms.

Why do seed companies endlessly create hybrids?  They sell more seed.  If you plant hybrids that do not reproduce true to type, you don’t collect seed, you buy more next year.  Eventually seed saving became an esoteric art that mystifies most gardeners, and even commercial farmers.  Heirlooms were no longer marketed and their seeds no longer saved.  Thousand of varieties are lost, and their genetic diversity is replaced by hybrids.  Some believe you can put it all back together by crossing hybrid genetic lines back into heirloom lines for a new diversity.  It only destroys more genetic material.

What is it about hybridization that causes me anxiety even though I don’t buy hybrid seeds?

The way hybridization is typically done in corporate laboratories is to create genetic Cytoplasmic Male Sterility in a plant, which then becomes a mother plant.  She no longer has male anthers that produce pollen.  She can still produce seed, and the corporation uses her to breed hybrid seeds.  Once CMS is introduced in a plant line, however, it remains in that line.  All mama’s seeds are now little mamas, the boys have been exterminated.  Eventually, the line dies out as each generation becomes more female.

For a seed saver, that means you get fewer seeds every year if CMS has gotten into your seed line.  If you include hybrids into your seed lines in an attempt to increase genetic diversity in carrots, for example, you will also introduce CMS and death to all.

If you are working to create a landrace variety with wide genetic diversity adapted to your conditions, you can only use heirloom and open pollinated varieties.

What if your heirloom seeds have already been contaminated with cytoplasmic male sterility?  How can you tell and what can you do about it?

Look closely at your flowers to see if the male anthers are missing or shriveled and lack pollen.  If you aren’t sure, look at several plants, the difference is noticeable.

What to do is harder.   Destroy the plant before it produces CMS seed.  In a vegetable garden, no muss no fuss, just eat it or compost it (minus sterile seeds).  Only allow seeds from healthy parents to enter your seed line.

Now, I know you won’t go out there and destroy any plants that have male and female flowers on separate plants, right? If you aren’t sure, check online.

I collect wild seeds in a small way, to get desirable wild plants for my garden. I also save seeds from some of my heirloom and landrace garden plants.  Unfortunately, CMS can be backed into heirloom seeds as well, creating a neverending dependence on corporate goodwill for future gardens.

Speaking of corporate goodwill, several new GMO potato varieties are being developed to “feed starving children” in India.  Because the corporation wanted

 to conduct trials in the Andes, the genetic home and continued gene pool of diversity, they declared that making their GMO plants male sterile would be 100% safe.  No mention was made about the facts of potatoes being vegetatively propagated,  and small root or tuber pieces left in the ground introduces the GMO death march of male sterilization into the most genetically diverse potato population.

Over 83% of seed potatoes sold in the US are sterile.  To create a landrace variety and try to get seeds will be hard.  I do think I will make the effort.

If you truly want to develop a landrace potato variety, you can get a lot of varieties, including seed or tubers, from members at Seed Savers Exchange.  The catalog comes out February 8, 2016, a dream book if I’ve ever seen one.

CMS is clearly a problem for those of us who want to save seeds.  Vigilance makes a difference.

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Spring Planting, Root Vegetables

My New Mexico conditions are harsh, but root vegetables do well anyway.  They are mostly cool season plamts, and my cool summer nights are good as is my sandy loam, generally appreciated by the root community.

Starting out with Kohlrabi (Brassica oleraceae), which is not quite a root vegetable, but has a swollen stem that resembles turnip, I will continue to grow Early White Vienna Kohlrabi that mature in 55 to 60 days.  This is an old variety, from back in the 1800s.  All I need to do different this year is let some go to seed in the spring, and again in the fall.  I plan to try a spring and fall planting this year.  They aren’t big water users, a plus.  I have to be careful about frost, because Kohlrabi keel over dead with a frost.  I think these are sculpturally interesting plants, but I grow them for the flavor, which I like.  The better reason to grow this cruciferous vegetable is for its powerhouse nutrition, its vitamins and minerals help regulate heart function and blood sugar.  It has trace nutrients that we need like selenium, magnesium, and copper.  The leaves are also edible.  I eat the whole thing fairly young.  I like them raw, but you can use the stem as a potato replacement in most recipes if you have diabetes.  Mostly I eat the stem raw, like turnip slices or grated into a slaw and slice the greens into salads or soups.

I mentioned Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) under Bulk Calories as a potato substitute for diabetics.  Here I want to add Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus maximilliani) because it is native to New Mexico and many western states.  Maximilian Sunflower also has edible roots and if it grows naturally in your area, needs no supplemental watering. Too much water will make it floppy and fall over in the winds, as will overly rich soil.  If you want to turn a dry and barren spot into food production, as I do, this is your workhorse.  Seeds are readily available, and once established, this perennial will spread and provide food without work beyond harvesting. I had only one on my property when I moved in, but by last summer had encouraged a good patch.  This spring I will seed a difficult full sun slope where my driveway curves in.  It gets ferocious winds and I have not been able to establish wind break tree(s) there.  I have managed wildflowers, so it looks better and holds the soil from erosion, but I want both food and a windbreak with my pretty flowers  These get about 7 feet high and are a start.  They are both cover and food for quail.  Later they will be a nursery plant for a tree.  The tubers aren’t as thick as Jerusalem Artichoke but they are good to eat.  I will soften this hard corner.

A big problem with agriculture in the United States has been reliance on European species that are poorly adapted to this country.  Instead of “improving” our hundreds of native species (as was done in Europe), we have tried to bend our land to accommodate European or Asian species and varieties.  Now we are so accustomed to these tastes, we have a hard time considering that all First Americans lived on local foods.

If you are concerned about food security, including GMO contamination, and food riots because shipping is down worldwide, not much comes up as a better solution than native edibles, especially in poor conditions.  This Sunflower will produce food where no standard garden vegetable would survive, increasing my food production area by about 300 square feet, no work.  It will also pave the way for tree cover in a few years.

Although I listed “fancy” colored carrots with my stir-fry ingredients, for long term storage I have always used Danvers Half Long.  The choice was made in Texas, where clay soils were less troublesome for these tasty, stubborn little workhorses.  No matter that I have lovely sandy soil for monster carrots, and will grow a couple larger varieties, I will grow Danvers in bulk.  I have a partially buried storage building that needs a little insulation to make a better root cellar, and look forward to storing fresh carrots in it.  As always, I will eat fresh carrots all summer and dehydrate the balance and store them in glass jars all winter.  I prefer dehydrated carrots in winter soups because they enrich the soup flavor. Carrots can and freeze well, and if you serve them as a side dish, that is a good way to store them.  I don’t like them boiled so much, so I don’t.  If you do dehydrate carrots, they store better in smaller containers that remain sealed and at the proper humidity.  I have also made my own meals in a jar packed with dried carrots, rice, beans, etc.  I generally use quart jars to hold dried carrots.  If you prefer large containers, I suggest a half inch layer of dry white rice on the bottom as a dessicant.

To save seed of different carrot varieties, space plantings out by a few weeks, and note days to harvest!  Danvers Half Long matures in 70 days, but Parisian Market matures in 50 to 60 days.  I admit that I grow these little round carrots every spring just for the early harvest, they stretch productivity out by a couple weeks.  Carrots do not like transplanting.  My indoor garden room will easily grow Parisian Market carrots.  I love my fresh carrots.

I like Gold Ball turnips, they are slower to maturity at 70 days, but are finer than US commercial standard Purple Globe turnips.  I have always leaned toward flavor and quality in my garden, and these are smoother, meaty,  and don’t get woody.  Still, 70 days only gives me one crop in the mountains.  Because I have committed myself to food security, this year I will plant Purple Globe also, for both an earlier crop and a second planting a few weeks after the first.  Don’t forget that turnip greens are edible and very nutricious.  Instead of large greens, I plant close and eat the greens from thinning plants… nice microgreens.

Aaaahhh, the much maligned Rutabaga (Brassica rapus).  American Purple Top is slow to maturity at 90 days.  I never let them get old and woody like most grocery store offerings.  I eat them raw at an earlier stage, and if they manage to survive to rock hard maturity I grate them into a slaw.  Anything left by first freeze gets dehydrated and stored in glass jars for winter soups.  Rutabaga showed up wild in Sweden around 1620 and is a cross between turnip and cabbage.  I will plant some in my garden to eat and for seed collection, but I will sow some seed in my wildflower beds to see if I can get a naturalized vegetable like my Western Salsify mentioned under Stir Fry.  The wildflower bed soil is getting richer and holds more water these days.

In all, root vegetables are easy in my mountain paradise and nutricious and delicious to eat.





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Spring Planting, Stir Fry Delight

Stir-fry vegetables are some of my easier to grow vegetables here in the mountains.  I use about anything available in stir-fry, and it is an easy way to cook for just one or two people.  I cook white rice and freeze in single servings, just enough to use with whatever I collect straight from the garden.  Quick and easy summer cooking that best showcases the freshest garden ingredients.

Cool season vegetables I have planted have worked insofar as growing well, but voles get right after them.  I decided to solve several problems I had with the area around my proposed house with a single solution.

My small garden area has a large amount of concrete laid in an unusual pattern.  My small home design and placement emphasized my desire to utilize the concrete instead of having it broken out for gardens.

I reserved a 10×10 pad under a pinyon for a seating, dining, barbecue area.  The rest of the concrete is getting 24 inch high concrete block raised beds in patterns suitable to the underlying concrete pads.  It is easy for me to build the beds with block, it keeps concrete pathways between beds, 24 inch high beds are easy on backs and knees, high enough to exclude rabbits, solid bottoms exclude voles, and filled with hugelkultur make them richer than my sandy soil.

24 inches of rich, moisture holding hugelkultur expands the range of vegetables that I can grow during my summer monsoons without supplemental water.  Raised beds warm up earlier in the year and extend my short growing season.  At some point I might try hoops or cold frames on top of the beds.

My first stir-fry vegetable will not live in these luxurious raised beds because it is already naturalized and living in my wildflower beds.  I caught one seeding out along the road and brought the seed home.  Then I noticed I already had them uphill.  Yellow Salsify (Tragopogon dubius) was widely eaten 200 years ago and brought to the US by immigrants.  It is a hardy cold weather crop that tastes best after the first winter freeze, but before it blooms and sets seed.  I find it to be a hearty and tasty addition to my soups, it is a workhorse root crop.

Although I include Salsify in my root vegetables, it is an amazing delicacy if you harvest the unopened flower buds with about an inch of stem and stir fry them with shrimp and water chestnuts.  I use rice wine in a delicate sauce and serve over rice.

I do my best to catch the dandelion type seeds before the wind scatters them, to keep them in my wildflower garden.  The spidery leaves and pretty yellow flowers hold their own with my wildflowers.  The ultimate survival food, they can be dug and eaten year round.  Nobody passing by will know they are edible.

Another naturalized edible is the common ditch lily (Hemerocallis fulva).  These were so prevalent in Oregon, you could eat them without worrying about eating them out.  One reason I include scientific names is for surer identification.  If you are unsure about ID, order some online and learn that way.  They will naturalize.

If you are digging daylilies for tubers, be sure to replant a few along with the root mass.  They regenerate quickly.  Don’t peel, just scrub clean and stir fry.  These are a treat in a spring stir fry, but mush up after blooming starts, so dig early.

Daylily’s spring shoots, harvested at about 6 inches, are a tender spring green.    Cut carefully just above the soil line and they will resprout.  These are also a nice addition to your stir fry… or an early salad.

Already past spring?  No problem, harvest firm flower buds for your dinner.  You can steam or boil them, but I usually stir fry them.  They make a good pickle for winter storage.  If the flower is open, grab it quick and chop it for a stir fry or salad garnish.  If you collect them, dry for use over a clear broth.  That is delicious.

If you have “wild” daylilies on your back forty, well and good.  If they are in a polluted ditch, pass.  Mine will have pride of place in a raised bed by my patio door, where a quick grab puts the best flavor straight into the wok.  Gorgeous, too.

I interplant Cherry Bell radishes with my daylilies.  When I am gathering buds for stir-fry,  I also harvest young radish greens.  Drop then into your wok at the last, and you will be pleased.  You don’t have to grow these together, but the deeper green leaves set off the graceful day lily foliage very well.  This is another stealthy food patch that just screams decorative flower bed.

One plant you don’t want to leave out is edible Chrysanthemum coronarium.  Garland Serrated has a special flavor and elegant appearance that is perfect for a soup garnish.  I also have the round leaf for milder flavor.  This is not kale!  It is delicate and should be added at the last moment.  Chrysanthemum is nutrient dense and high in minerals.  Once you taste it, add to any dish.

Daikon radishes are easy to grow and if you want, plant them in hard pan soil and wait for these behemoths to break it apart.  Beats hard labor with a pickaxe for the patient gardener.  I grow them for stir fry, mainly.  I also harvest them before they are 2 feet long.  I don’t feed enough people at this time for that to be practical.  I harvest at closer to 1 foot and use in my stir fry, except when I just eat them plain.

Because stir fry is about variety in color, taste, and texture, I use carrots.  Orange carrots are perfect, but Atomic Red are even better.  Both are Dacaus carota, both are easy cool season roots for my mountain garden, but for a little flash in your stir fry, vivid red is awesome.  I matchstick mine for no discernible reason other than appearance.  This year I ordered Solar Yellow and Lunar White, too.  Not to mention Cosmic Purple.  If not stir fried, they are wonderful in salads or munched plain.  My experience is that a raw carrot a day keeps my cholesterol down.  Try it and let me know if it helps moderate your cholesterol too.

You can use many vegetables in your stir fry, I usually use the “gee what is ripe today” method, first cousin to my winter soup “everything but the kitchen sink” method.  For me, these vegetables add a distinct flavor and look I like especially for stir fry.

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Spring Planting, Tomatoes

After 3 years here in the mountains, I have only had success with cherry tomatoes, none of which impressed me enough (for NM mountains) to save their seeds.  Save what works well in your garden.

Tomatoes come in determinite and indeterminate varieties.  Determinite varies were bred for corporate agriculture and mechanical harvesting.  In order to get a tomato variety that does not need staking, bears its fruit in a short time period then dies, it took a lot of inbreeding and is nothing I want in my tomatoes.  Most people whose tomato plants myteriously died, bought determinate plants designed to die.

Monsanto is perfecting a “death gene” that makes the plant and its seed die, they must gotten the idea from determinite tomatoes.  This is scary for obvious reasons.  No wonder Bill Gates and Monsanto are subject to conspiracy theories about genocide plans.

Indeterminate tomatoes have deeper root systems and better drought tolerance in dry climates or during dry spells which is definitely needed here in the dry southwest.  They are 6 to 10 foot vines and need a solid trellis, but bear tomatoes until frost.

Tomato plants are a perennial plant, but are not cold hardy.  Before my indeterminate tomatoes die of cold, I make cuttings from them for winter tomatoes either indoors or a greenhouse.  Once I find a variety that produces well here, I will start saving seeds for a better adapted plant.

Tomatoes will not set fruit above 95°F, not a factor here in the mountains; however in my Texas garden, 95°F was deemed a cold front coming through.  No matter, I grew my tomatoes in dappled shade under pecan trees.  The nice thing about pecans is they leaf out late, so my tomatoes got full sun in the spring.  Keep in mind that pecans have a little juglone, not as much as walnuts, but even so I raked the leaves away from my tomatoes and mulched with pine bark mulch.

I just ordered Coyote tomato seeds. It is a tiny yellow cherry tomato on a indeterminate vine that matures in 50 to 65 days. This variety was found growing wild in Mexico.  I like the genetic diversity on this one, and short days to maturity is on my side.

The second tomato is Polin, a golden pear shaped tomato on an indeterminate vine that matures in 65 days. This heirloim variety came from Poland and tolerates cool nights.  A good possibility for better production in spite of my cool nights.

I no longer buy from Springhill,  Wayside Gardens, Mountain Valley Seed, or American Seed.  All have been bought by Monsanto.  I don’t buy from Burpee because their main supplier is owned by Monsanto.  If you want to see a list, check on  They are doing a good job tracking Monsanto’s buy up of heirloom seed companies.

For a paste tomato, I ordered San Marzano, an indeterminate heirloom tomatoes with a 78 day maturity.  It comes out of dry Italy, but is irrigated.  This is a world famous variety, and if it will produce in my garden, I will be content.

San Marzano is the only indeterminate paste tomato I ordered, but will keep my eyes open.  I like Jersey Devil but it needs a longer season.  Paste tomatoes are the best canning tomatoes, and if you only have a few ripen at a time, or just don’t have time, pop them into a freezer bag and freeze them until you have enough to can.  Freezing makes it easy to peel tomatoes, too.

Here’s where I confess that I am a crazy tomato eater, right behind melons.  Last summer I had 5 varieties of cherry tomatoes growing on spec and ate every tomato those plants produced.  I did not share with my coworkers, to their indignation.  I did share tomatoes with my neighbor who paid for a new gravel road between his/my house and the paved road, a full half mile.  I will provide tomatoes ad infinitum, I expect.

I still have seed for last year’s varieties.  Push come to shove, I will go with what I have and save the seeds going forward.  Maybe this year I will find the right tomato.

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