The North Natomas "Volunteer"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Weird and Strange things are taking place in the Backyard of Bird this summer gardening season.

I've alluded to them in a few other posts. Some "mysteries" are unfolding before our very eyes and -- quite frankly -- they are hard to explain.

Case in point -- that tomato plant to your left.

It shouldn't be there. It shouldn't be growing. Yet -- as the photo clearly shows -- not only is it THERE -- it's also growing like nobody's business.

My friends -- this is what we call a "Tomato Volunteer." This isn't the first year for them, by the way. The've popped up in my raised beds from the past -- most likely from cherry tomatoes that dropped to the ground for one reason or another (I didn't get to them or some bird got to them first).

But this is the first volunteer to pop out of the clay muck soil that makes up much of the backyard. And -- not just pop up -- but grow like it's got the best soil conditions in the universe. That's why I say -- this should not be happening. Venus and I are blessed with the worst soil known to mankind.

The Sacramento River -- long ago -- overran its banks into the Natomas basin. Whatever good, loamy topsoil we had in the Natomas basin was long ago stolen by river flooding and washed south into the Delta. You've heard about the good soil in the Delta? Well it's MINE! And I want it BACK!

Of course, I'm not getting it back. Which means I'm stuck with the worst clay hardpan known to mankind. It's as hard as a rock during the summer, and turns into a muddy, quicksandish SLOP during the winter. What is it good for? NOTHING! It's a "good for nothing soil!" You wouldn't even want to suffer the indignity of being BURIED in this soil. Nothing -- I mean NOTHING -- grows well in this hardpan except for WEEDS.

But now I have this. This thing. This plant. This tomato plant volunteer that not only sprung up in the worst soil known to mankind -- HECK -- IT LOVES THE STUFF. Clay hardpan? WHO CARES? This plant appears ready to grow in a vat of wet or hard cement, which is exactly what I got.

I spotted this thing last May and was actually quite amused. I wondered how long the poor thing would probably last. It had the worst soil and NO water source whatsoever. I gave it a lifespan of two weeks at the most.

What is it now? August? Near August? This FREAK of nature lives. Not only does it live -- it's got tomatoes all over it.

How? What? When? Where? Who? I feel like I'm in damn journalism school all over again!

But -- even more intriguing -- is this plant may have a rather *sordid* history behind it. I'm not sure yet. This could be one of several tomato varieties that I grew last year. Why? I had a late run of Blossom End Rot (BER) last August. A lot of the soiled and spoiled tomatoes got tossed into the exact area of where this plant rooted, and is now growing like gangbusters. It's most certainly one of those tomato varieties.

But which one? I can't tell yet -- although you can clearly see to your left that one of these tomatoes is now ripening. I'll have a pretty good idea in a couple of weeks just exactly what this plant is -- and I'm hoping that it's the plant I'm thinking of -- because it deserves to be saved.

There's a story behind this tomato. It's not a good story mind you. Even worse -- it's a BAD STORY. A true story? Yes, indeed. But a bad story just the same. Should this variety turn out to be the variety that I strongly suspect -- well -- it already has a name.


Yeah -- that's right: Evil Seed. The story behind this tomato? It's almost as good as the tomato itself. While it certainly does have another name -- I'll never know for sure what it is. Therefore -- because it's murky history and its cheating ways -- it gets a new name. Time will tell.

Through observation -- I can tell you what it's not. It's not a Brandywine. It's not a Pruden's Purple. Both of those are potato-leafed heirloom plants. This is not a potato-leaf -- so rule those two out. It's not a paste variety either, because the tomatoes on this plant are round. So, cross out the three paste tomatoes I had growing in the garden last year.

And then -- there's also the distinct possibility that some wayward bird flew into my backyard earlier this spring and made that special kind of "deposit" that only birds can make. This is unlikely, but you can't rule it out either.

I'm hoping for "Evil Seed." Stay tuned. Time will tell. Seeds -- and the story that goes with them -- will also be offered to interested growers -- PROVIDED -- this is THAT tomato.

What a story indeed.


Upon returning home tonight after a day full of activities, it became apparent that the one tomato nearing harvest? Well, it had fully colored up. It was time. And Venus and I both thought: "no time like the present."

Unfortunately -- from the moment I touched it -- I knew something was wrong. It was soft. TOO SOFT. Unfortunately, it must've split about a week ago (I didn't see the split), and some sort of white fungus was growing in the cracks where it had split open.

It was spoiled. Yes -- spoiled. But not spoiled enough. As Venus and I stared at this tomato -- we both knew in an instant. This was no cross. This is THAT tomato!!! It was black in color and the same shape and size as the mystery black tomatoes I grew last summer.

Make no doubt about it. The EVIL SEED lives. Although the tomato was too far gone for eating purposes -- it was fine for seeding. And we did just that. And this was one SEEDY tomato. Evil Seed indeed. It's living up to its name!

Seeds will be offered to a few lucky folks later this winter. I know I won't have nearly enough for demand -- but I'll do my best.


Jenn's Cooking Garden! said...

I love Suprises! Isnt it nice to be suprised once in awhile!

Fred Hoffman said...

Bill, you are getting a new tomato that you can name whatever you like. Chances are it won't be any of the plants that you threw there to begin with. That seed was from a tomato produced by a plant that you knew the name of, but that seed is the result of random pollination. And since you tend to cram, what, 30 plants in a space meant for about 6, that tomato seed, and its resultant plant, is probably the result of a GROUP ORGY! Name it accordingly.

Bill Bird said...

Alright Hoffman,

Riddle me this? Why is it perfectly fine and dandy now to squeeze ten fruit trees into a space normally reserved for ONE -- but it's a crime against God and Humanity to do the same thing with tomatoes? HMMMMMM????

I think it's probably because our fine friends at Dave Wilson want to sell a few more fruit trees, but that's just one man's opinion.

Still, it does beg the question. I've heard you advocate stuffing an orchard into a shoe closet. But Lord help us if I put a tomato plant close to another one!

dave said...

Ooh a naming contest!
Gang Banger? no
Who's Yer Daddy? no
Bird's Little Bastard? no
Natomas Tart? no

Eh, I give up.


Bill Bird said...


Bird's Little Bastard is a humdinger. I'd choose that, except there's an innocent woman and two innocent daughters who were victimized in the story of this tomato. She wanted the rights to name it. She deserved it. So -- I agreed. Evil Seed it is. And there's absolutely no doubt in our minds now. It's the same black variety that we grew last year. It's the same plant that the wife wanted to pull up and chop into itty, bitty pieces because of the philandering ways of the person who grew it. But, you can't blame the plant, right?