There are still 39 batches of fermenting tomatoes from which seeds need to be extracted – the very last ones from 2022. But this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated 1,600 batches of seeds saved in 2022. Full inventory will take several days of dedicated effort.
Melon seed extraction also completed, but eggplants and peppers are still waiting (not so patiently…) for me to figure out how to create more time out of thin air…
Just stunning how long this is taking me to get through all of these batches of tomatoes.
As of today (December 18th), there is one shelf of mostly ripened tomatoes left to process, and four more shelves of fermenting tomatoes that need seed extraction. Each shelf is about one day of work. So that phase is at least 95% done. Then comes seed drying, packaging, organizing, computer work.
As shown in one of the photos, there was a minor catastrophe. I was gone for a few hours, and when I returned, there was a stack of five containers that had collapsed and toppled onto the floor. My what a mess to clean up! One batch remained intact, and I managed to save at least a couple of dozen seeds from the other batches. But more than 3,000 seeds were essentially lost, even though I saved them. Seeds of unknown variety just are not of much value.
A snowstorm on December 12th dropped 7″ of snow, with outdoor temperatures dropping to -1° F, and 38° indoors. House is unheated, except the space heater in the office/bedroom.
I cannot imagine trying to survive this as a deer or other animal in the wild! I caught 12 of them on video snacking on the remnants of tomato vines.
I am anxious to get seeds organized, data entered, photos processed, and descriptions written and published – if only that clock would slow down to 1% speed for a few months…
Whew, what a relief to finally have all the tomato seeds extracted from the 2022 growing season!
Well, almost finished. There are just 39 batches left. These are the “leftovers” – those that were still green in early December, and which I ended up moving to the “warm room” to speed up and complete ripening. I expect to have these processed for fermentation by noon tomorrow, then will move them to the warm room for faster fermenting, and will have seeds extracted and drying by the end of the week, which is also the end of the year.
By that time, I also hope to have all tomato seeds organized, alphabetized, inventoried, data entered, and this list updated:
Just published, but not quite finalized, a spreadsheet titled
“List of Tomato Seeds Available from 2022”
To summarize here: 913: Number of varieties planted from seed 67: Number of varieties with zero germination 846: No. of varieties for which at least one seed germinated 247: No. of varieties grown as seedlings for other growers 671: No. of varieties transplanted into exclosure and tomato patch 150: Approximate no. of varieties of leftover seedlings that grew and produced in 3.5″ pots 22: No. of varieties (of 671) for which all vines died before producing fruits with viable seeds (most deaths were from Curly Top Virus) 649: Estimated no. of transplanted varieties from which seeds were saved 41: Approximate additional varieties (“leftovers”) from which seeds were saved 690: Approximate total no. tomato varieties from which seeds were saved in 2002
This list is in draft form and will be finalized in about 3 weeks, once all seeds are extracted, dried, packaged, and inventoried.
This public folder also contains a number of other lists which may be of interest, including:
DT BIG Tomato List Tastiest Tomatoes Heat Tolerant Varieties
And many more
Fortunately, I’ve had a volunteer to help package tomato seeds, help with processing, and take the following video, which shows the process used for seed separation with larger batches, cutting time down from 15-20 minutes per batch to 7-10 min.
As of this writing (November 30th), there is about 200 hours worth of tomato processing left to do from the 2022 growing season, including: preparing batches for fermentation, actual seed extraction, seed drying, packaging, inventory, organizing, and data entry. After that comes photo preparation, transcribing field notes, writing up descriptions, updating website, and — well, the 2023 planting season will be here long before I will be able to get all of this done. Such is life – never a moment of boredom!!
For the past month, the rooms where the tomatoes have been stored while ripening and fermenting have remained at temperatures between 44-58° F. Despite my best efforts, by now, several batches batches have gone well beyond ripening to the point that they have rotted and fermented, allowing me to skip a step, but not allowing me to take decent photographs or to taste the ripe tomatoes (no, absolutely NO – I have zero interest in tasting rotten tomatoes!!).
Well, the clock is ticking rapidly towards November 1st, and it looks like I’ve barely made a dent into processing batches of tomatoes — which were harvested in October — for seed saving.
Every single decent-sized (1 gallon or larger) solid container I have has been filled with tomatoes at some stage of processing. I’ve resorted to using gallon freezer bags placed inside of pots to hold batches of tomatoes for fermenting.
Finding time to do “Fall cleanup” of the garden is absolutely out of the question. But I have a crew, or rather several crews of deer that are cleaning up the tomato patch, little by little, as many as nine deer at time, with small herds spending as much as two hours straight, gorging themselves on the leftover, frozen tomatoes. It’s been challenging for me to refrain from chasing them off – something I’ve been doing for months, mostly in the middle of the night.
They have pretty much ripped down the deer fencing along the south edge of the garden patch, so even for the youngest deer, it’s an easy hop in and out. They are getting bolder by the day, often starting their forays in the late afternoon, and continuing off and on all night long. On the bright side, at least I’m sleeping better, not stressing out about the damage they might be causing.
So many beautiful, tasty, and interesting tomato varieties sampled this year. Loads of photos, descriptions, and recommendations to share. But the battle now is against exhaustion, and against tomatoes rotting before I get a chance to sample them or take decent photos.
Here are just a few teasers —
Apologies in advance for delays with getting seeds out, but I WILL get to them, just not as quickly as usual. Lately, I’ve been sending out seed requests just once a week, rather than the more typical frequency of 3-4 times per week. It’s just the nature of this beast — a very BIG bite this year, seeming, at times, to be more than I can handle. Best get at least a little sleep.
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Recent minor snowstorm, followed by 15.3°F temperature. Deer have pretty much cleaned up all but the tiny tomatoes from the main tomato patch. Now they are working on the extra vines that are still in 3.5″ pots – those seedlings that never found a home, but many still managed to send roots into the ground and produce some tomatoes. They have been covered with row cover fabric, but the deer pretty much ripped that to shreds, so I removed it. Following video was taken from 20′ away with the aid of a headlamp. They are so bold, at least when I move slowly and remain quiet!
Harvesting of tomatoes for seed saving has finally been completed, about 10 hours ago, in the high winds, cold rain, and plummeting temperatures of an approaching cold front and storm. It’s snowing outside now, with low temperatures of around 21°F (“RealFeel”) forecast in about 28 hours. That’s a hard freeze, a season-ending freeze for sure.
Here is what the tomato patch looked like at the end of the harvest:
Some may suggest this is a surfeit of tomatoes for seed saving: Some 2,000 batches of seed saving at some stage from something like 877 varieties (sorry for excessive sibilance, sometimes I simply cannot suppress such urges).
At the moment, all shelf space, nearly all floor space, and now even the entire seed room are packed with batches of tomatoes waiting for me to get my act together and process them for seed extraction.
I have taken only a few plants into the cellar this fall, placing them under metal halide lights to hopefully set and ripen more fruits over the winter. Not holding out a lot of hope, however, as this strategy had not proven very successful.
When daylight returns in a few hours, I still need to harvest peppers, eggplant, basil, potatoes, and other small seeds before the serious cold sets in. Harvesting all of those tomatoes just sapped me of time and energy.
Fortunately, I have had many neighbors, around 30 people total, who have helped with tomato harvesting, both for seed saving and their own use – a special thanks to AD especially! 👍 Altogether, we probably harvested over 3,000 lbs. of tomatoes, leaving less than 1,000 lbs. still on the vines or on the ground for the deer, birds, mice, insects, fungi and bacteria to clean up. We just could not get to them all – 2022 has been an outstanding year for tomatoes, at least around here!
Now to really focus on seed extraction and saving. I estimate 800 hours of work left to do to get all tomato seeds extracted, dried and packaged from the abundant 2022 harvest. And I would very much like to get all of that done by November 1st.
Sadly, somehow, the math does not work out. So patience is appreciate from those looking for seeds from many excellent new (to me) varieties from 2022.
Meanwhile, seeds of more than 2,500 tomato varieties are available now:
Just a short, mid-month update. This time of year really tries my endurance and conscientiousness, much as described in last year’s post, “Adventures in Ultramarathoning“. Similar principles and struggles, mostly in the realm of, “how the devil am I going to find the time to do all of this!”
First light frost is very likely tonight; that is, within the next six hours. Tomato harvesting, at least for seed saving, is about 75% complete. Thankfully several relatives and neighbors have been helping with the harvest, and with finding a good home for the extra tomatoes. The following photos depict a pickup truck, loaded down twice, representing maybe 20% of the extra tomatoes this season. “Extra” referring to those in excess of what I need for seed saving.
Regrettably, with such a late start in 2022, nearly all of the extra tomatoes have started ripening in October, and I have no opportunity (time, personnel, energy) to try to get these to market. So it’s a “Free for All”. There is a lot of poverty in this small town of 1,300, so resentment doesn’t enter the equation. I would have to drive 30 minutes to take them to the nearest farmers market, and neglect the hundreds of hours of urgent work while making the trip.
Here’s just a glimpse of what it looks like indoors, where I am eyeballs-deep into processing tomatoes for seed saving.
Significant changes since the above video was taken two days ago, including spillover into the shower and the office of batches of tomatoes waiting for me to get to them.
Between the numerous invasion of deer recently, the hailstorm on October 1st (see previous blog post), and much unavoidable trampling while harvesting, vines in the tomato patch are looking well paste their prime. And with frost pending, the following videos will likely be the last weekly videos of living tomato vines for the season.
I hardly know where to begin with all the wonderful, beautiful, intriguing new tomato varieties that I have been harvesting and tasting over the past couple of weeks. Below are just a few teasers.
How I wish I could keep up with it all!
I have harvested at least 10 Domingo tomatoes weighing in at over 1.5 lbs. But this has not bee the biggest of the year. That honor goes to the variety Diamante, with the heaviest coming in at 1.936 lb
Hopefully much more than teasers to blog about at the end of October!.
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First frost of fall – a very light one. Remnants of hail damage can also be seen in the following photo: shredded, dried leaves all over the weed barrier fabric.
All tomatoes need for seed saving have now (October 17th) been from the main tomato patch. Left to harvest: the overflow section, rows 17 and 18, which contain 187 tomato vines representing 119 varieties. Harvesting in this section is only 3% completed. I have a large tarp ready to cover the vines when serious frost is forecast to hit next weekend following the first low pressure to come into this area in several weeks.
The weather here has been absolutely wonderful every day since September 13th, with highs ranging from 70 to 84°F, and lows ranging from 41 to 60° officially — though my thermometer recorded 37° last night. Plenty of sunshine, very little wind, and so pleasant to work outside, harvesting tomatoes for seeds.
Now the real work begins: processing about 700 more batches of tomatoes for seed saving. Ultramarathoning every day — just too bad my body forces sleep upon me. Is there an “anti-hibernation” pill that can keep me fully awake and alert, 24-7, until Spring returns?
Tomato harvesting for this season is about 25% complete, while processing for seeds is about 20% complete. The ripening of so many tomato varieties in such a short period of time is analogous to a profusion of blossoms opening in Spring in an amazingly diverse flower garden. With the obvious difference that you can actually EAT these and use them in all kinds of wonderful recipes!
I’ve not yet taken the time to label these photos, let alone transcribe field notes about productivity, flavor, etc. But rest assured, there are many remarkably delicious tomato varieties this year, as well as a number of impressively productive ones.
Regrettably, I have been unable to manage the time to do – well, so much that needs to be done this time of year. One hour of harvesting translates to at least 10 hours of processing for seed collecting. And 100 hours per week of intensive effort really needs to be 100 hours per day in order to keep up. Let’s just say, “It’s starting to stink of rotting tomatoes!”
At a minimum, I am making an effort to keep this list of varieties for which seeds are available up-to-date:
Deer have breached the barrier of the deer fencing several times now and are starting to do some serious damage. A couple of hours ago, I caught two of the critters in the middle of the tomato patch, enjoying a feast. I chased them out, wondering how they could so easily escape. Well, they just sauntered through a breach in the corner where they had chewed or at least pushed their way through loop ties that had connected the netting to the corner post (railroad tie). Just a little stooping made passage easy for them. Deer in this neighborhood have found the richest jackpot in the county, so of course they will be back – again and again and again. Below is some evidence I found the day before:
So much more in mind to write, but that mind is screaming for some sleep…
Following are short videos of the main garden patch taken the past two weeks. It’s amazing how many ripe tomatoes are not visible when viewed from a distance. But, get in close and move some vines around, and wow, there are thousands! Though the majority of them are still green.
At least I have been getting some good help with harvesting from neighbors! It’s so much faster for me to have two or three people helping with the task, and they get to take home loads of interesting and tasty tomatoes!
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Update October 1st
Intense thunderstorm early this morning, dropping about 3 cm of rain. This included some serious hail. However, I was too tired/lazy to drag myself and out of bed and visually witness the very loud hailstorm. I did record some of the consequences —
Essentially, all the cucurbit leaves were severely damaged. Brassicas and other greens suffered moderate damage. Many exposed tomato leaves were shredded. The damage to the tomato patch was the equivalent of maybe 1,000 tomato hornworms, all in a matter of minutes. Fortunately, most of the foliage was fairly thick, so damage to fruits themselves was probably minor, at least of the green tomatoes. Heavy rainstorms over the past week have resulted in extensive fruit splitting. That’s not really a problem for seed saving, except that the effected fruits will rot much more quickly, and I need all the time I can get for them to remain intact as there are some 300 batches of already harvested ahead of them, waiting for me to find the time to process for seed extraction.
Heavy rains in the high desert of eastern Utah? There have been at least 20 rain events over the past four months, which is more than I have seen in many years. Tomato vines and other garden veggies have loved the rain – nothing like a good thunderstorm to stimulate rapid and lush growth!
The water year just ended yesterday (September 30th), and this region (Lower Green) is showing 105% of average rainfall (NRCS precipitation data). An enormous snowfall this winter is needed to refill the reservoirs in Utah and other western states.
Really now, how often do you read “hurricane” and “Utah” in the same sentence?
So far, at least 2 cm of rain have fallen here, and daytime temperatures dropped by over 30°. Relief also comes in the form of saving time: I have been spending up to 12 hours per week watering by hand during the hottest days of summer.
The tomato AVALANCHE is in high gear – drowning, swamping, overwhelming, burying (remain calm, breath…). It took me two days to harvest tomatoes just from the original exclosure, there there are about 350 tomato vines. Then it has taken me ten days to process those tomatoes for seed saving – and I’m still a week away from getting all of those seeds to the point of drying on plates.
How I wish I did not need to sleep and had the energy I had at age 25! But nobody really wants to hear complaints and lamentations – I just do what I can, and once again, the word of the day (or rather season) is “TRIAGE“.
Here is an example from just a couple of hours ago. While scouting for hornworms in the main tomato patch (yes, I spend significant time in the tomato patch at night – loving my new headlamp…), I just could not resist harvesting these 21 (mostly) beautiful tomatoes from two vines, variety Dagma’s Perfection (fruity, sweet, so tasty…) —
The four fruits at the top of this photo of 21 illustrate these four fairly common problems:
Blossom end rot – from inconsistent watering; in the main tomato patch, this is only the second fruit noticed with BER — just one among many advantages of a drip irrigation system!
Sunscald – a week of record or near record-high temperatures in early September
Consumption by tomato hornworms – <100 tomatoes affected so far this year, despite limited efforts at controlling them
Splitting – again from inconsistent watering, in this case likely resulting from recent heavy rain
Original title of this blog post was to be, “More Than Circumstantial Evidence”; however, the following observation is more anecdotal than significant.
Yesterday (September 14th) evening around dusk, I exited the house with the intent to close the gate to the tomato patch. Immediately, a buck mule deer jumped from somewhere and bounded to the back (south) side, outside of the tomato patch to join it’s two companion garden destructors. Needless to say, vocal cords were but one tool to chase off the trio. A few moments later, I encountered this more-than-circumstantial evidence of invasion into the tomato patch, three rows in, near the middle:
Maybe I got to the tomato patch just in the nick of time and scared the s*** (sugar babies) out of the invader! Motion sensing light confirmed to scare off a neighbor’s cat – will it work for deer?
“Tomato Tangle” is now an understatement. After some frustration (not to mention severe time pressure), I’ve abandoned all hope of getting all tomato vines tied up this year. Many of these vines are now so long, and heavily laden with tomatoes, that trying to tie them up results in vine breakage and fruits falling off. Perhaps if I could transform into an arachnid-human chimera, with 4 to 6 arms available for manipulating and moving vines…
A few other plants are also (I’m only 99% made of tomatoes) growing well. I’ve been eating spinach, kale, or broccoli leaves every day, along with more than a few tomatoes. Even cucumbers added to my diet – variety Muromoski was jus 46 days from seed to eating stage!
To date, I have managed to tie up less than 30% of the tomato vines. Obviously, tomato harvest goes much faster when vine tangling is minimized. At this point, with some vines approaching 10′ long in all directions, it takes up to 10 minutes to untangle and tie up just one vine. Multiply by maybe 800 vines that need it and – yikes! What a jumbled jungle! Here’s one shot from August 25th –
Two latest weekly videos documenting rapid growth of tomato vines –
To date (August 31st), approximately 100 batches of tomatoes have made it through the second phase of processing: taking field notes, photos, sampling, setting aside for fermentation. This in the neighborhood of about 1% of the work needed this season before all seeds are processed, dried, packaged, inventoried, and ready to go.
So many varieties of tomatoes already harvested – where do I even start? How about a very small one, and the first two tomatoes harvested to top 1 lb. — though there are several larger ones still green –
The weather has been very cooperative the past couple of weeks – high temperatures mostly under 95° F, occasional thunderstorms, some wind to help with pollination. Still, many blossoms are dropping; Curly Top virus is still killing scores of plants; hornworms are still prevalent; and frost could be here within 3-4 weeks. Many megablooms, profiled in last month’s blog, have failed. Some vines, such as Estonian Yellow Cherry, are absolutely loaded with blossoms, though most of them have fallen by now, unpollinated. However, a heat wave is just starting! At least for larger-fruited varieties, if blossoms have not set fruit by now, they will have little chance of setting fruit and ripening before first fall frost.
There are a number of hard-working, unpaid, underappreciated assistants –
Not all strictly tomatoes – I have a bit of an aesthetic streak as well, and a few hundred plants are not tomato vines.
Many gardeners who are familiar with Delectation of Tomatoes may not be familiar with documents of interest that are located on the associated Google Drive. These files are shared publicly at:
Just a quick update on the progress of the main tomato patch.
Aside from 70 or so vines killed by or dying from Curly Top Virus, virtually all of the ~1,320 tomato vines have fruit set, or at least have blossoms open now. Some of these vines, likely of the cherry tomato sort, have more than 150 open blossoms per vine! Rough counts, estimates, and extrapolation puts the total number of tomato blossoms open now at 30,000 at a minimum, though likely closer to 40,000 or more.
Impediments to fruit set, in probable order of importance:
Western Flower Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) devouring pollen – there are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of thrips in the patch
Low humidity – ideal is 40-70% relative humidity; but in this high desert climate, 5-20% is much more common
High daytime temperature – 70-85°F is ideal for tomatoes; over 94° means certain failure of blossoms for many varieties
Low quantity of pollinating insects – there are more than in previous years, but much work still needs to be done to attract bumblebees and other native pollinators. Some birds (i.e. Western Kingbirds) and predatory insects (especially robber flies) prey on the pollinators, though the extent of their impact is likely minor
Curly Top virus – killing entire tomato vines obviously means not useful fruit set
Tomato hornworms – though they have not killed any tomato vines outright, they have severely damaged a few vines.
Next year, I intend to keep tomato vines covered most of the time with row cover fabric. This should help significantly with problems 1, 5 and 6.
As of today (August 19th), there are at least 3,000 tomatoes either processed for seeds, harvested and awaiting processing, ripe on the vine awaiting harvest, or green and growing. Already I am significantly behind with processing – and I feel a tomato avalanche coming on!
Of course the real challenge begins after fruit set: getting all of these 650+ varieties to produce at least a few ripe tomatoes suitable for seed saving before fall frost sets in – which could happen within 3-4 weeks. Really hoping for at least 8 more weeks to the growing season!