Do I know old tomato seeds?


Photo: hjschneider

I have saved tomato seeds (from purchased plants) from last year's harvest. Can they do that?

Response: It is perfectly possible to save tomato seeds, they usually have good germination even after one year. So feel free to add some extra seeds to make sure you get some seedlings.

However, it is not certain that you will get exactly the same kind of tomato as the ones you bought, if it was a so-called F1 hybrid. But it does not hurt to test anyway.


The history of the tomato - that's how it grew

The tomato is related to both potatoes and chili and has its origins in the Andes of South America. Via the Inca Empire, the tomato came to the Aztecs in what is today southern Mexico. They named the tomato Xi tomatl and started growing it. It came to Europe in the 16th century, but it was not until the 19th century that the Swedish public was reached. "Tomato King" Åke Truedsson draws the history of tomatoes and gives in a second article initiated advice on how to best succeed with your tomato cultivation.

The tomato genus was born in the Andes mountains of South America, where countries such as Peru and Ecuador are now located. The genus developed into different species where different places offered different conditions and today there are nine species in the family, three of which are good to eat. The tomato is closely related to the potatoes, which can be guessed from fruits and leaves.

Lycopersicum pimpinellifolium, the cherry tomato, originates from the western side of the Andes.

Different varieties on each side of the mountains

Lycopersicum esculentum developed on the eastern side of the Andes into what is now our "ordinary" tomato.

On the green side of the Andes, facing the Amazon, our tomato was developed, Lycopersicum esculentum. A red, round fruit of about 6-10 grams. This species spread over to the arid side of the Andes facing the sea and in this drier coastal environment a new species developed, Lycopersicum pimpinellifolium, which has contributed to our sweet and delicious cherry tomatoes. This species has smaller, often sweeter fruits, only about 4-6 grams in often long clusters. In Ecuador, a bird long ago ate wild tomatoes and then flew all the way to the Galapagos, 139 km, without fulfilling its needs over the sea. Once there, it sowed tomato seeds, which with millennia became their own species, Lycopersicum cheesmanii. A small hairy plant with pea-sized, orange tomatoes of only 1 gram that has been adapted to its new slightly colder and harsher environment. These are the species that for us are edible of the tomato genus, but I would still like to mention a species that the plant breeding has benefited greatly from through its resistance genes to various problems, namely Lycopersicum peruvum which has gray-green fruits.

The tomatoes never became a large and important crop for the Inca Indians and their precultures compared to their Solanum relatives, potatoes and chili peppers (assuming that the tomato does not exist as a ceramic and not on their fabric, where potatoes and chili peppers often occur). However, I think there was some tomato cultivation in the area around the city of Cusco, because there you will find the largest wild tomatoes with fruits of 10-12 grams.

Lycopersicum peruvum with important resistant genes.

Married in green parts

All solanum plants contain more or less of toxic glycoalkaloids, so also the tomato plant that contains tomatoes - a weakly toxic glycoalkaloid that is found in green parts of the plant including green tomatoes, but not in ripe tomatoes. The poison has been tried to kill lice, but without success. However, it can cause skin irritation if you spend intense time with it
tomato plants.

The area around the Inca capital Cusco, in present-day Peru, has wild tomatoes. In the background the Inca Indians' terrace plantations.

The tomato spread along the Inca Empire's roads south to northern Chile where the Atacama Desert and high volcanoes stopped and to the north it was probably with the messengers, who ran with the message within the Inca Empire, and probably also with birds that the tomato spread. Eventually, the wild tomato reached another mighty historic Native American empire, the Aztec Empire in what is now southern Mexico. The Aztecs were very good at cultivating, developing cultivation techniques and finding new food crops. For example, our maize was found and taken care of for about 8000 years as a mutation of theosin grass, and floating cultivation gardens were developed. This so cultivable people, also took care of the tomatoes about 1,500–2,500 years ago. They named the tomato Xi tomatl and also found there a mutation in the form of a larger pleated tomato of 50-80 grams that they started to grow instead of the small ones of 6-10 grams that grew wild. This larger pleated tomato arose due to a genetic defect where the DNA code for the formation of the tomato fruit was multiplied and gave tomatoes where each fold is actually a tomato. We know that there were both red and orange tomatoes in their crops. The name Xi means big and tomatl was actually their name on tomatillo (Physalis philadelphia) which was also cultivated.

Brought home gold and tomato seeds

Hérnan Cortés, 1485–1547.

So the Spanish conqueror Hérnan Cortés came to Mexico and wanted lots of gold, but among other things brought tomato seeds to Spain where he returned in 1523.

We do not know much about these seeds in Spain. What we do know is that the Moors, who previously ruled much of Spain and were a trading people, still existed in southeastern Spain at this time. These merchants gave or sold the tomato on to what is today Italy, where they fell in love with this new fruit fairly immediately. From the Italian name of the tomato Pomodoro - Pomme dei Moro (the apple from the Moors) - we can deduce the way there.

This mutation of the wild tomato, where each fold is actually its own tomato, was the tomato that Hérnan Cortés brought home to Spain and which was then processed into the smooth tomato we grow today.

An early recipe was to roast the tomatoes and mix with onions, pepper and thyme as well as olive oil, salt and vinegar. On the Apennine Peninsula, they immediately began refining to remove the creases and create the modern tomato we know today at 70-100 grams each, but it would take a very long time. We know that in addition to red tomatoes, orange fruits were also grown because in writings people talked about Pomme del oro - Golden Apple. Even today there are tomato varieties from the time they worked with the tomato's development in the form of pleated good original-tasting tomatoes with names like Costoluto Genovese (pleated from Genoa), Costoluto Fiorentino (pleated from Florence) and Santorini.

The English believed in the 17th century that tomatoes were poisonous. In addition, everything that came from the Italian city-states was very badly seen during this time in England. It was expressed condescendingly in botanical circles that the Italians ate these fruits of stinking plants (tomatoes). The fear was also found in France, where the condescending Latin name was given to the wolf peach (Lycopersicum). However, the French who liked good food spied on the Italians, but perhaps the spy was a little hard of hearing because he got the Italian name Pomme dei moro a little wrong, it became Pomme d’amour, love apple, whereby luck was made for the tomato in France. The English translated the name correctly from the French to "Love apple" but they were still very skeptical, as shown in a cookbook published in London in 1602 where they wrote the following about the tomato: thoroughly cooked. Tomatoes should never be eaten raw because death is instantaneous ".

Sexually arousing

Thomas Jefferson, 1743–1826.

The church in the United States was appalled by this new one, which was believed by the name "sexually arousing fruit" and banned the tomato. A priest in the Southern States was expelled from his community after being caught with the sinful act of growing tomatoes in his garden. The man who restored the tomato's reputation in the United States was Thomas Jefferson, who in the late 18th century got people to start growing tomatoes. He also published a book in 1781 which mentions tomatoes and is one of the presidents of the United States with a pronounced interest in growers. He learned about tomatoes in France where he previously served as ambassador. Nevertheless, there was skepticism given that the tomato is a Solanum plant - a genus with many poisonous species.

Radiator Charles Mortage Lifter - an American tomato from the late 19th century. In the United States, it was long believed that the tomato was poisonous, then immoral, until President Thomas Jefferson spoke out in favor of it.

Survived tomato fever

Robert Gibbon Johnson, 1771–1850.

The tomato was considered so dangerous that they even made pure circus numbers by eating the "poisonous" fruit. It is said that on September 26, 1820, the elegant Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson performed in front of an audience of 2,000 people eating a basket full of tomatoes. First he was measured by the coffin maker, then a doctor announced the horrors one could suffer if one ate tomatoes, and then Colonel Johnson ate the tomatoes. The basket was emptied of its contents. Everything to the accompaniment of mourning music and the audience held their breath. Of course, Robert G. Johnson died, but much later, at the age of 79. Those who eat a lot of tomatoes live longer than those who do not.

In Italy, during the 17th to 18th centuries, they worked on removing the folds of tomatoes and finally managed to produce the round tomato we know today. They also produced elongated, meaty varieties for pasta sauce and drying, as well as piennolo tomatoes that have a long shelf life. They were hung from the ceiling and lasted through the winter, long after the harvest was over. When it comes to tomatoes and their use, we actually have a lot to thank Italy for.

After the French Revolution, the tomato became very popular in France due to its red color, and when Napoleon won at Marengo, this was celebrated with a dish called Chicken Marengo which includes tomatoes.

Cultivated in Sweden since the 17th century

Daniel Müller, 1812–1857.

In Sweden, they probably had tomato plants in Uppsala since the 17th century as botanical curiosity, but they did not eat anything. The first general Swedish garden book I found that mentions tomatoes is Daniel Müller's book "Frukt- och Köksträdgården" from 1861. The tomato finally came to Sweden to the public in 1880 as seed for a variety in the seed company Tjäder's catalog (Stockholm) and here the tomato was called nothing, but was called love apple (From the English love apple), a name we kept until 1906. Then we switched to tomato, which can be traced to the name of the Aztecs. As early as 1895, Sellberg's seven different named varieties were offered in the seed catalog, which became 16 named varieties in Svensson's seed catalog from 1903. Some of these varieties still exist today, such as the Golden Queen, Gold Nugget, Mikado and Ponderosa. However, the tomato was not common on our dining tables until the 1960s. By then, people in the Western world had begun to refine for higher yields and firmer tomatoes for professional growers that could easily be handled in transport and by the shops. This refinement went so far that the tomatoes in the late 1960s and 1970s tasted almost like water. The taste was not a priority then. Since then, consumption has increased a lot and the taste has improved and the range has increased, but professional cultivation has some left for tomatoes to taste like home-grown with the right fertilization. For the past fifty years, efforts have also been made to introduce resistance genes into F1 hybrids for professional growers (an F1 hybrid is a cross-breeding product that is not stable in future generations).

When the tomato is first mentioned in Swedish literature, it is like "Love apples" in Daniel Müller's "Fruit and kitchen garden" which came out posthumously in 1861.

In Russia, the tomato became an important crop for the Russian dates and here we actually have a good deed by Josef Stalin. He ordered that plant breeding stations be set up throughout the Soviet Union to produce food plants adapted to their local climate. There were very many plant breeding stations and lots of plant breeders who produced fruit and berries for the Russian people, but also lots of early ripening tomato tomatoes that survived the short summer. Here can be mentioned varieties such as Yantarnyi, Sibiryak, Taimyr, Malinki Prints, Yagodka, Ljana Eva and more but also tall and then among other things tasty brown tomatoes that became popular in the southern part of the union with a better climate. Good examples are Cherny Krim, Chernomyr, Cherny Tula, Cherny Mavr, with several and giant steaks such as Bych je serdtse (Ox heart) and a still nameless tomato called Severnyi (northern) which gave me the largest tomatoes - at most 1,523 grams for A tomato. So we also have Russia to thank for their plant breeding of tomatoes that fit into our climate.

Bych je Serdtse (Ox Heart) - Russian variety with large, fleshy heart-shaped fruits. The local plantations in the Soviet Union resulted in a large number of surviving Russian tomato varieties.

Beef varieties in the USA

In the United States, and perhaps especially in the southeastern part of the country, during the latter part of the 19th century, plant breeding of tomatoes became popular with many private individuals but also with seed companies. Many new, often large steaks such as Charles Mortage Lifter, Mom's, Brandywine, and more saw the light of day. Many of these ancient varieties are preserved today by the Seed Saver's organization in the United States, which does a fantastic job of preserving genetic diversity - our greatest treasure on this earth.


These are experiments two out of three with winter-sown tomatoes this year. I want to find a method of sowing tomatoes in the winter that gives the same results as indoor sowing.

This winter sowing of tomato was done on February 2 and consists of 48 different varieties.

As you may have read earlier, this year I am doing experiments with sowing tomatoes in the winter. I have written about this before on the blog in the posts Winter sowing of tomato and Another winter sowing of tomato. When I did just this sowing and shared a picture Instagram many asked which varieties were included. Here is a summary.

After doing the first tomato sowing of the year in the winter, outdoors, I decided to do another kind of sowing to compare the results and be able to evaluate better. For this project, I looked for all the old tomato seeds, a total of 48, from the hiding places. I'm really not a nerd on tomatoes, but you know how it is. If a few new varieties are bought every year because you just can not help it when something looks so delicious, well then in the end there will be so many.

Sown in small saw strands
This sowing was done on 2 February 2018 in a newly purchased trough for sowing, consisting of mini greenhouses with underwatering and eight small troughs with six small cells each. 48 cells in total.

In each cell I have sown three tomato seeds of the following varieties.

Small tomatoes:
Ildi
Brown Berry
Yellow Currant NY
Sungold F1
Red Pear NY
Black Sweet Cherry
Sweetbaby NY
Golden Bumble Bee NY
Red flower
Mexican wild tomato
Yellow cocktail tomato, born seeds
Strawberry tomato, sown seeds
Red baby plum tomato, born seeds

Slightly larger tomatoes:
Ace 55 VF NY
Yellow date wine
San Marzano
Cream Sausage
Promyk NY
Zloty Ozarowski NY
Moneymaker
Snow white NY
Banana leg
Crimson Crush F1

Sustainable tomatoes:
Borghese Principle
Ponderosa
Vesuvio Giallo NY

Shrub and potted tomatoes:
Vilma
Microbel NY
Sweet'n Neat Lemon Sherbet F1 NY
Tiny Tim
Taxi
Ida Gold
Whippersnapper
Norderås bush
Bonita NY
Marble

Steak or really big tomatoes:
Fiorentino NY
Pantano
White Beefsteak
Costoluto Genovese
Black Russian
Black Seaman
Brandywhine
Travel
Brandywhine Pink NY
Aussie NY
Purple Calabash NY
Brandywhine Yellow NY

I have marked each variety but expect that some question marks will arise during the season. Labels can change places and the text disappears. Let's hope that as many as possible remain readable.

As you can see, there are a lot of varieties that are marked with NY. These are varieties that I have not grown before. I bought and exchanged for myself some seeds last year that were never sown, because then I did an experiment with growing a lot of the variety 'Crimson Crush' F1.

I have carefully marked all varieties but expect that some labels will get feet during the season. The snow begins to melt after a few warmer days in the tunnel greenhouse.

Out with it
Immediately after the seeds got into the soil, the whole seed was put out in the tunnel greenhouse and I laid a lot of snow all over the soil. The lid was left for a while until the snow melted and moistened the soil. Now the sowing is without a lid in a freezing cold tunnel greenhouse. We currently have about -10 degrees at night so the earth is frozen. There is no water in the trough for underwatering.

My intention is to try to force the sowing as soon as the winter cold recedes. Just for the tomato project, it is actually only good that it is so cold because my biggest concern is that all the seeds will germinate too early. It is my experience from previous experiments that the tomato plants can not withstand any minus degree what-so-ever, therefore they should preferably not germinate too early.

The lid is not on properly, mostly just to let me know where it is somewhere. I do not want the seed to get so hot that it germinates early.

Usually abroad
Winter sowing of tomatoes is common in other countries with cold climates. There, it is primarily sowing outdoors that is done, in old milk packages made of plastic and the like. The plants come up a little later than sowing indoors and take a little longer in the first stage of growth, it is colder outside than inside. But most people seem to think that the method is good and that the plants bring home the late start.

I want to try to find a way to do this that suits my cultivation, where most plants need to come up in good size as soon as possible to have time to harvest in the open. In greenhouses, they have slightly better conditions, with a longer harvest period that can compensate for the late start. There is no doubt that the seeds can germinate nicely and become beautiful through winter sowing. The only question is whether they have time to give plants that grow a good harvest in good time. After all, our season is quite short for tomatoes and heat-demanding vegetables.

Oh well. In a few months we will know how the result will be. And until then, of course, I have also sown some tomatoes indoors. Tolled over sixty varieties, I seem to have poked into the ground in total. Of course, I have made sure that I have someone to share plants with me. And I have made a third sowing of tomato as well, but I will tell you about it later.

Which tomato do I like the most? 'Black Sea Man' is one of my favorites, as is 'Black Russia'. Both are large dark tomatoes. I like big tomatoes. The one I have the most expectations of is the 'Reise tomato'. I grew it last year for the first time but only got a very small fruit from a late sown plant. The 'travel tomato' is a huge tomato that looks like a molecule. Small growths from the main fruit can be twisted off. It looks fantastic and is supposed to be good! A tomato with history, it is said to have been used as a food sack for traveling people in Central America. The large tomato could be easily divided by breaking off the smaller growths from the main tomato.

Keep your fingers crossed for my tomato project!
/ Sara Bäckmo

It always feels exciting to sow things that should not be sown in the winter really. Fun if it gives results.


Read on the bag how the seeds want it.

Fill small pots with sowing soil, put a seed in each. Cover with a thin layer of soil.

Spray the soil moist with water and place in a hobby greenhouse or wood over a plastic bag. Set
light, dark, hot or cold depending on the variety.

Remove the lid or plastic bag as soon as the first leaves are visible, otherwise it may form
gray mold.

When the plant has grown a little and the first real leaves have grown out, it is time to replant.

Fill a new, larger pot with seed soil and pry the plant out of the first small pot.

Make a deep pit and put the plant all the way up to the "armpits", ie up to the tomato leaves. Then the stem becomes like a taproot where new roots grow out. If you put the plant in the same soil level as before, it becomes a "wick plant" and it risks breaking off. Press lightly and spray with water.

When the plant has grown out of its new pot, replant.

After 3-4 months, you can harvest your very own home-grown tomatoes.


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