Down the Stretch They Come...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Momotaro Tomatoes
Momotaro. That's the answer to the annual Bird Heirloom Tomato Contest of: Guess which variety of tomato seed germinates first? NeCole Brownwell Scott of Antelope, CA was on top of her game with her guess of Momotaro, which isn't all that surprising since she's a Tomato Maniac herself. For her brilliant perception and forecasting skills, NeCole wins her choice of two tomato plant starters from the Bird 2013 starter crop.

Yes indeed! It might be a bit chilly outside, but this is prime seed-starting season for backyard enthusiasts like the wife that is Venus and myself. Once again employing the seed-starting rack setup that we employed last year for the first time, Venus and I are growing many treasured favorites from the past plus quite a few new varieties this season.

Seed Starting Rack
One of those new varieties? Momotaro. While the variety certainly isn't new, it will be a new addition to the Bird Back 40 tomato crop later this spring. Momotaro, as you might have deduced, is a Japanese variety. It's one of the most popular varieties in Japan thanks to its legendary productive status. The fact that it's named after a legendary Japanese folk hero (it loosely translates into "Peach Boy" in English) also might help.

The story and legend of Momotaro was heavily promoted by the Imperial Japanese government during World War II. It should come as no surprise then that the "demons" that Momotaro was sent out to fight lived at a well-known United States naval base called Pearl Harbor.

Bingo Tomato: Impulse Purchase: Lockhart Seeds
I suppose this is one of the many reasons as to why I like growing as many varieties of heirloom tomatoes that I can get my greedy little hands on. Each one represents a little slice of international history. The story of Momotaro, the folk tale, and Momotaro the tomato, represents one of those interesting little discoveries.

How does the old saying go? Learn something new every day?

Venus and I set out on our planting adventure last Sunday, February 17th, just a day after this seed starting article appeared in the garden section of the Sacramento Bee. Some people start a week or two earlier than this. Still others start out a week or two later? Point is? The goal is to have starter plants ready to set out in the garden by May 1st, or Farmer Fred Hoffman's birthday if you will.

Germination after five days: Momotaro Tomato
Once again, we have outdone ourselves. 120 starter plants now sit under a collection six shop lights in a spare Bird bedroom. Believe it or not -- we have room for even more. We're not even using the bottom rack (yet), which would provide room for 40 more plants. And we haven't even considered using the top rack yet... Though I suppose that will come with time.

Point is? With a cheap metal rack and a few shop lights? You can do some serious garden damage. And that's just what we intend upon doing this year.

Of course -- not all of these are tomato plants. I WISH I had room for 120 tomato plants. I'd be in tomato heaven, as would every neighbor on the block. But our collection also includes a number of sweet and hot pepper varieties. These will come into use when it's time to can the legendary Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa. Venus also has about six different varieties of basil that have already germinated and are growing quite well.

Siam Queen Basil Seeds
Why have just one variety of basil when you can have all of them? Genovese Basil is a "must have" in any garden and one of the most popular starter plants you'll find at any garden store. But why limit yourself to Genovese -- when the hot variety of Siam Queen Thai purple basil beckons? Like a hint of lemon in your basil? There's always the popular Lemon Basil. Point is -- there's a basil for every dish.

Venus didn't just limit herself to vegetable garden selections with her seed starting efforts this year. Nope! With an excellent and hard-to-find selection of flower seeds purchased from Lockhart Seeds in Stockton, this year's indoor starting effort includes multiple flower offerings that you probably will not find at you local gardening store.

Love Lies Bleeding Seeds
Sure -- you can find your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, marigolds and petunias at your local Big Box Store. But if you've got your heart set on something called "Love Lies Bleeding," or "Oxford Blue Scabiosa," I hope you got it started early at home. The point is? We want our front and back flower beds to contain items that you just don't see in those everyday, mass planted gardens.

Seed starting is one of our favorite rituals. It's one of those "together" things that we both enjoy. The payoff is a fun afternoon and a summer's bounty of delicious tomatoes and flowers that bring a riot of color to the Bird Back 40. It's also a chance to share and trade with others who have been bitten with this gardening bug. One afternoon of seed planting brings out a season of beauty. Try and find a downfall to this. I've tried. I can't.

Afternoon of Fun
There is nothing quite like the joy and satisfaction that comes when the first seedling pops to the surface, or that first starter plant produces its first tomato, first pepper or first bite of fiery basil. I keep thinking of what the backyard flower gardens will look like when our Desert Bluebells or Penstamon Blue fire up into a riot of flower beauty.

Yes, I suppose this is a bug. Call it a twitch if you want. Disease works just as well. Just count me glad that I have it.

Bird 2013 Heirloom Tomato Garden

Agro 410
Arkansas Traveler
Believe It Or Not
Berkeley Tie Dye
Big Zac
Black Cherry
Chadwick Cherry
Cherokee Chocolate
Cherokee Purple
Costaluto Fiorentino
Dixie Golden Giant
Eva Purple Ball
Lemon Boy
Lush Queen
Martha Washington (last year’s top garden performer)
Mr. Underwood’s Pink
Polish Giant
Pruden’s Purple
San Marzano
Schilling Giant
Solar Fire
Sungold Cherry
X-Large Spanish


Jenny said...

That's a great list of tomatoes you got there!

I was actually thinking of growing "Love Lies Bleeding" this year. Do you grow this amaranth for food, show or both? I believe I read that the young leaves are supposed to be a tasty addition to salads.

Bill Bird said...

Never have grown this before, Jenny. Wasn't aware you could eat the leaves! We've done other edible flowers in the past however, and have had some great success with them!