A Story of Tomatoes


I live in town. My garden consists of a six-foot strip of soil along the fence that separates us from our neighbors. Which is to say that I cannot plant whatever my little heart desires. I have to make hard choices.


For some reason I also delight in trying new varieties of tomatoes. Now it used to be that you couldn’t find very many creative tomato plant starts, although a recent trip to our local Saturday market proved this has changed. However, I had long since begun starting my own plants from seed.

Here’s the problem: Let’s say you pick up three new kinds of tomato seeds every year. Let’s say every seed packet has more tomato seeds than you can ever use. Especially if you plant only TWO seeds. You get the picture. After awhile you have a TOMATO SEED BUILDUP.

This year I decided to plant a couple of seeds from every packet I owned, no matter how old. My oldest seeds dated back to 2011. It would be a little experiment. I would see which seeds came up, whether or not there was a noticeable difference with the older seed, etc. etc. I’d save just a few of the newer seeds for next year and depending on the outcome, give or throw away the remainder.

Here are the names of all the tomatoes I planted: Silver Fir Tree (These I grow in pots; they have special leaves and are the tomatoes my characters planted in Seed Savers:Treasure. I plant these every year.), Jory (a friend gave me these seeds just this year), Tiffen Mennonite (another favorite because they are so big!!), Mortgage Lifter, Box Car Willie, Indigo Rose, Black Prince, Black Krim, Caro Rich, Orange King, Beaverlodge, Willamette Organic, Amish Paste, Speckled Roma, Brandywine, Caspian (I chose these last year at a tomato tasting event), Roma VF, Cherokee Purple, Giant Syrian (from a friend), Rainbow. Yeah, you get the picture. Multiply those by two and I had over 40 seedlings because THEY ALMOST ALL CAME UP!!! (Don’t you just love those names??)

I wish I could say I remembered to take a photo of all those little darlings before I split them up and found homes for them, but I did not. But here are some of them “hardening off” outside before being taken away.


Where did they all go? I kept six for my garden area, two for pots. Gave four to my mom (she asked for three). I borrowed some land at her house to keep a few more for myself  because there were so many new ones I was curious about. And I took about twenty down to the community center for Mother’s Day gifts.

What did I learn? That tomato seeds have great viability. Did some of the older seeds produce runtier looking seedlings? Yes. The most vigorous, healthy plants are always the ones I get from friends. These seeds are fresh and they are local to my area.

Best of all, I can now pass on most of my seeds and not feel overwhelmed next year with all that buildup. Okay, that’s not the best of all. Best of all will be seeing all the new-to-me tomatoes!

Do you have a favorite tomato? Share in the comments below.

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

3 comments on “A Story of Tomatoes

  1. My silver firs did not come up, and I planted them twice! Maybe next year…

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