June 17, 2013

Breeding My Own Heirloom

Two summers ago I started breeding my own heirloom tomato with the help of my friend Joseph Tychonievich. Joseph just released his first book (there will be more, I hope) this spring called Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener. It's a really fun read and it actually inspired me to teach my spring biology class a little bit about plant breeding (incorporated into our genetics unit, of course).

Anyway, two years ago I crossed Martino's Roma with Black Krim. Martino's Roma is a very productive paste tomato that seems resistant to blossom-end rot (at least in my garden). Black Krim is my #2 favorite tasting tomato (behind Pruden's Purple). Last year I grew out the F1 generation of plants. They all looked exactly the same, as expected (a somewhat flattened spherical red tomato with paste-tomato-esque flesh. This year I planted out 16 plants of the F2 generation. Although 16 plants probably isn't enough to see the entire compliment of genetic variation, I had to limit myself due to space.

My plants started flowering in very early June and I'm already starting to see some baby tomatoes. I was able to find fruit on about 6 out of the 16 plants so far, and it looks like there are two main fruit shapes:

A ribbed, flattened beefsteak shape, similar to Black Krim.

And a roma-shaped tomato, somewhat similar to Martino's Roma.

I can't wait to see what colors they turn as they ripen. I'm hoping for a paste tomato that has the coloration and flavor of Black Krim, but they paste-consistency and disease resistance of Martino's Roma. I'll just have to wait and see!

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