... growing and hybridizing all kinds of plants in zone 6b Maryland since the 1980's.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tomatoes again

I finally got around to cutting the tomatoes to save the seeds, and took some up close pictures (and tasted them too). I had been worried that the flavor might not be too good, but they were surprisingly tasty for having been ripened off the plant for at least four months.

For new tomato seed savers, here's how to do it easily:
1) Squeeze the seeds from the tomatoes into a plastic cup (juice, pulp and all)
2) Leave it to ferment a couple of days to break down the pulp and jelly around the seeds
3) Dump into a wire-mesh kitchen strainer and rinse well (a kitchen sprayer works well to blast all the fermented pulp through the mesh)
4) Blot underneath with a paper-towel to wick away excess water
5) Dump seeds onto wax paper to dry. Once dried you can break the clumps apart easily with your fingers.

I re-use the plastic cups and wax paper over and over again for all of the distinct lines I've been saving.

Here are the three best fruits of the red long-keepers. Only around golf-ball sized but very juicy and great, tangy, fresh tomato flavor (and remember this is after more than four months garage storage). I'm guessing these were most likely green when they were picked.
 And here's that line descended from 'Brandywine' and Lycopersicon hirsutum. No shriveling at all. I remember these were all completely green when I picked them over 4 months ago, because I wondered if they'd ever ripen. They're only about the size of a hard-boiled egg yolk and have a distinctive, non-acid, sweet, grassy-cantaloupe-melon flavor.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Garden fresh" tomatoes LOL

Well, they're from the garden but fresh might be a stretch.
I've been meaning to get started on this for years, but finally did it this year. I've wanted to start selecting some lines for keeping ability.
So back at the end of the summer (after a touch of frost) we'd picked every tomato off the vines. They've been in cardboard boxes in the garage ever since. A lot of the nicer ones have already been eaten by now but plenty have gone rotten along the way too. It's down to the end and I think it's time to save these last hold-outs for seed.
First picture shows the rejects. Second picture the last decent fruits. The reds are from some "wooly" lines that I've been intercrossing with larger-fruited varieties (like 'Beefsteak', 'Coustralee' and 'Mortgage Lifter'). That's why aside from being a little shriveled they might look a little "peach-fuzzy". The smaller yellows are from lines heavy in 'Yellow Pear' ancestry. And the cluster is from a line derived from 'Brandwine' and Lycopersicon hirsutum. Other than larger fruits, it's very similar to that species.

And not so bad for January 25th!!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Strawberry Seedlings again

About a month old and they're coming along nicely - 'Red Wonder' alpine strawberry X "White Clubhouse" (a white-fruited, everbearing AND runnering vesca type). I'm hoping by Spring that these will be ready to start blooming (all should be everbearing), They all should be red-fruited. And half of them should be runner-forming. The best of this running type, we'll call "Red Clubhouse".

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Black Kales

The very cold weather has intensified the purple pigmentation of the glossy kale seedlings so that they're looking nearly black. Here are two particularly nice selections that I'd moved to the seed production area a little while ago. The first black kale has a 'Tuscan' kale to the left of it for comparison. The second black kale has a 'Stonehead' cabbage seedling to the left of it. The third picture is of a sibling that is showing the effects of the gene for cold-weather induced lack of chlorophyll in the center just like the original ornamental purple cabbage that I used so many years ago. The leaf shape also resembles that old original ornamental cabbage. I recently bought and planted a look-alike of that ornamental cabbage - pictured in the fourth picture.

Frozen Lettuce

Well, I went out to check out the frozen landscape, and here's one of those volunteer lettuces frozen solid. It's been below freezing (12 degrees F this morning) for quite a while. I wonder if any of these will bounce back after they eventually thaw. Note the two weeds with red arrows... they're the weedy wild version of lettuce, Lactuca serriola that interbreeds freely with domestic lettuces producing hybrid offspring that are as prickly and bitter as the weed itself. But... the wild prickly lettuces overwinter as little rosettes like this, every year here. So it should be possible to have an edible lettuce do the same right?

Strawberry Seedlings

Well, the temperature was 18 degrees F last night around 8:00 and this morning was 12 degrees F, so not much going on plantwise outside. But indoors about a week or two ago, I planted half of the seeds I'd harvested from 'Red wonder' alpine stawberry pollinated by our own "White Clubhouse" (see posts all throughout the 2011 growing season). And they're starting to pop up already! We're trying to get a red "clubhouse" type - everbearing AND runner forming. Hopefully by the time Spring comes, these seedlings will be big enough to be fruiting and runnering so we can make some selections. By Mendelian expectations, all of these should be red-fruited, all everbearing, and split 50:50 for runner-forming growth habit versus "Alpine" (non runner-forming).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pomegranate and Mantis Egg Cases

We have very health praying mantis and assassin bug populations here. By summer's end they're usually crawling all of the house. So it's nothing to walk around and see dozens of egg cases when all the leaves hae dropped for winter. It looks like the "Russian Pomegranate" must be a favorite for mantises to lay egg cases on. As you can see in the picture, there are six cases in the center of this one plant.