My Favorite Tomatoes & Starting from Seed
Tomatoes are quintessential summer. Whether it’s fresh salsa from the garden, a satisfying slice on a sandwich or dropping wedges onto the top of a frittata just as it enters the oven, tomatoes are one of the simplest ways to make me smile in any season.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Chiapas is always the first and last tomato we harvest. Super early, super productive and super disease resistant, it’s also super delicious.
Honey Drop ripens right after Chiapas & is lusciously sweet, similar to Sungold in both flavor and size. The biggest difference? Sungold is an F1 Hybrid owned by a multinational corporation while Honey Drop is open-pollinated (so its saved seed will grow true to type) and is owned by no one, so we all have access and will for generations.
Gold Medal has remained one my favorite tomatoes for decades. It’s massive! With flavor rich and fruity, it’s cross-section is marbled red, orange and yellow. Gold Medal is my go-to for a tomato sandwich, along with:
Italian Heirloom was gifted to us by Brian and Chrystine of Uprising Seeds in 2012 and we’ve been swooning ever since. It’s gigantic fruits are often 10 to 12 plus ounces. Though it is a nearly seedless paste type, Italian Heirloom has the rich, remarkable flavor of a slicer.
Lemon Ice is one of the best-named tomatoes ever, truly a sweet creamy dessert if I’ve ever had one…! A dwarf, Lemon Ice only gets 3′ tall, thriving in containers or small gardens, still blossoming and fruiting all season long.
And Brandywise, the brilliant combination of Brandywine’s rich flavor and Cornell’s cutting-edge disease resistance.
Starting Tomatoes, Peppers & Eggplant from Seed
After months of white snow and brown, bare branches, any green is such a welcome sight.
Then there is the immense gift of choice: of choosing the varieties perfect for you. I learned this next lesson as a girl the year we didn’t start our tomatoes from seed. When we started seeds, we had literally thousands of varieties to choose from. When we walked into that nursery that spring, we had only a handful of varieties to choose from. And each one was red. If you crave diversity, starting your own seeds is the best way to satisfy that craving.
Speaking of nurseries: Raising transplants as healthy as those in many nurseries can be intimidating, But with a few tips, good experience and a good mentor or two, you’ll soon go to nurseries and be glad you’re raising your own, because yours look so much healthier and happier. Healthier transplants offer the most abundant harvests. Fruition Seeds is here to help.
Today is April 2nd, so…now! Tomatoes, peppers & eggplants (all in the solanid family) are ideal to start 6 to 8 weeks before last frost. When is last frost? We’re a cold Zone 5 here in the Finger Lakes of New York. Growing up, Memorial Day is deeply ingrained as our last frost date. Since starting Fruition Seeds in 2012, our last frost has varied from May 9th (2017) to May 23rd (2015). Note! Though the last technical frost in 2017 was May 9th, there were many days with nights with temperatures in the 30s and low 40s. Nights that cool, though not fatal to your tender solanid seedlings, will stress them significantly. It is much, much, much better to wait until last frost and nights consistently no lower than 50 degrees. So hold off til after last historical frost or later to transplant your solanid seedlings. After decades of starting seeds, here is something I am still learning the hard way: the easiest way to not plant out solanids too early is to not start them early.
Other Considerations for Timing
Young, healthy transplants yield more abundance than older, more stressed seedlings. Check out this image from our Seed Starting Infographic:
If you don’t have a dreamy seed starting set-up (ie, heat mat + full-spectrum LED lighting), it’s better to wait another week or two before starting your solanids. It’s counterintuitive but undeniably true that younger, healthier seedlings will surround you with much more abundance than their stressed brothers and sisters.
You’ve got options. Here is a video, short & sweet, to give you a sense of how we start solanid seeds at Fruition.
And if you don’t already have my ebook Rise & Shine: Starting Seeds with Ease, now is your moment. You’ll find lots more details to set you up for success. Here is the first page of Chapter 7, 15 Steps for Spectacular Seedlings.
And if you live close enough, join us at Fruition this Saturday, April 7th: I’m hosting a workshop after Fruition’s Seed Store called Sowing Summer: Starting Tomatoes from Seed and we’ll walk through the entire process together & you’ll receive a lot more than perfectly sown seedlings. See details here & see you there!