Saturday, July 31, 2010

Another Tomato Book

I recently read the book Tomato: A Guide to the Pleasures of Choosing, Growing, and Cooking, by Gail Harland. It had some nice charts in the beginning listing the best tasting tomatoes of each type of tomato and listed them by usage for canning, sauce, etc. It would really help in picking tomatoes to grow, because you can pick tomatoes easily that will produce the type you want without having to look through all of the other types. The only problem with this book is that it seems to focus more on UK tomato varieties and inter-mixes hybrids in with the heirlooms in each section. I'm interested in saving seed, so I typically avoid the hybrids and look for open pollinated or heirloom varieties. Another note to make is that stabilized open pollinated varieties like Green Zebra are listed as hybrids in this book, whereas I would consider them more as open pollinated. I think the distinction comes down to the stability of the genetics and maybe Green Zebra loses its striped characteristics without adequate selection over the years, meaning it isn't as stable of a variety as others. That doesn't mean I can't select the seeds that are most true to type every year and maintain the variety. Some traits in Green Zebra are likely polygenic and will vary over time without selection pressure, the selection pressure would be exerted by the person saving the seed. Pick from those that are true to type. Virtually all tomatoes were probably selected from hybrids and stabilized at one time. Heirlooms were stabilized in the more distant future than tomatoes like Green Zebra. So keep in mind that hybrid in this book doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't open pollinated.

The book also had a nice simplified 4 section crop rotation schedule in the book that could prove helpful to the gardener. I haven't really done standard crop rotations yet, but am interested in setting up a crop rotation system with companion plants in each section. I've planned companion plantings yet, just haven't gotten around to formulating a rotation schedule, which would be really useful and simplify the planning each year. This book has some useful ideas in it.

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