Most tomatoes don’t have a story worth telling, but this one just might!
Most tomatoes are planted, grow, ripen, and are picked, sent to market or canned, sold and eaten. Or maybe you grew it yourself & you can skip the ‘sold’ part.
This little tomato, whose identity is a mystery, has a slightly different story.
I have a pebble tray in my kitchen with all my orchids. In January this year, a tomato seedling showed up in one of the pots. I swear, I’m not one of those cooks who throws food around the kitchen, but somehow a seed made it to the orchid pot in the window. I decided to just leave it and see what happened. That orchid got more water than the rest because, honestly, orchid bark is not the best growing medium for tomatoes. It’s quick draining.
Anyhow, the weeks went by, the seedling grew. And wilted. And I quickly watered it. It perked back up. And it grew and grew. It was in a south-facing window with good diffused light, but there was a lot a space between each set of leaves.
By end of March or early April, it was 2′ tall and blooming, much to my surprise! Far too early to even think of putting it outside. And it needed a stake or something, as it kept falling over. I leaned the stalk against the window frame and kept watering.
Even end of May is iffy for putting tomatoes outside in my garden zone. The soil is not warmed up yet and our frost date is towards the end of May. A small, green fruit was forming on the tomato plant. Hang in there baby!
About a month ago, mid June or so, I re-potted the orchid and gently removed the very tall, single stem, tomato plant with, basically, water roots. I planted it quite deep in one of my raised beds and stuck a winter driveway marker next to it. And lots of twist ties to hold it in place. At this point it’s 2 1/2 feet tall, this stringy, leggy, but tenacious tomato plant. I watered and fertilized, and watched with wonder as it took off.
In the collage below you can see the wild thing it has become. Lots of side shoots, all looking pretty healthy. Lots of other stakes to hold up its branches. It has lots of blooms and fruits forming. At this point I’d guess it’s what you buy at the market called ‘vine tomatoes’.
And I never though it would survive, much less produce a crop. The first fruit, which survived the transplant process and grew more, was harvested a few days ago and put on the windowsill to ripen a bit more. Today I’m eating it and it tasted just like any other home grown tomato – juicy and flavorful, if a bit small.
So that’s the story of the tomato that thought it was an orchid… or something like that.
Remind me to tell you sometime about the preying mantis egg case that hatched in my kitchen in February (with a foot of snow on the ground outside). Happy gardening!
End of season update: This plant produced more tomatoes for a longer period than all the other tomato varieties in my garden this year! Truly, the little tomato that could… I wonder if I should start all my tomatoes for 2014 in my orchid plants in January? hmmmm
Side Note: When I want to save some tomato seeds for next year, this is what I do:
- I scoop the seeds directly from the tomato and smear them across a paper towel.
- I set it aside to dry. I write the type of tomato and the year collected right on the paper towel.
- When completely dry, I fold the paper towel & place it in a baggie to store.
- When I’m ready to plant, I take large container, fill it with dirt, place the seeds (paper towel and all) on the soil. Cover the seed with soil, water, watch ‘um sprout. The paper towel disintegrates.
- Transplant into individual pots when the seedlings are big enough.