[tomato] Historical crops.

Paul Reynolds (Tomato@GlobalGarden.com)
Thu, 11 Mar 1999 11:15:38 -0600


I can't say much in the way of the development of the tomato, but, it is
correct to say that native peoples have been altering growth and
production of plants and their associated fruits for ages.  The crops
that we have today are very different than the ones that we had as
recently as 200 years ago.  Even those are different than what was
available 1,000 years prior to that do to earlier peoples playing a role
in the selection processes.  For instance, a variety of corn grown by
the Hopi indians was blue.  They also had what is known as indian corn,
multicolored ears of corn.  You don't find these varieties readily
available today due to the fact that with better varieties being
developed from the parent stock, the originals were pretty much doomed
to die out.  The only seed source of the true indian and blue corn, that
I'm aware of, is located at the South Texas Plant Materials Center in
Kingsville Texas.  A friend of mine was manager down there and offered
me some kernels of the Indian corn for my personal use, and like a fool,
I didn't take them as a means of helping to preserve the original

When I was involved in cross pollinating okra in my garden, I was making
my own alterations for what I wanted in okra production.  As a result, I
came up with a plant that was generally 7-8 ft tall at the end of the
season with abundant bloom and fruit production.  The pods themselves
were best when picked at lengths of 6-8 inches.  I more or less caused
all these alterations.  However, after two seasons, I would have to
recross the original varieties due to the loss of genetic vigor in later

Now, I'm not saying that you should jump into making variety crosses
yourself, but, was just giving you an example of how earlier peoples
could have altered the tomato to tailor it to what they wanted.  My
little experiments in my garden had very tight controls and I kept all
the seed and would not distribute them.  In the world of plant breeding,
distribution is something that could put ya away for life if you aren't
liscensed for distribution.

I do NOT recommend that others start their own crosses unless you have
some idea about what you are doing.  I've been trained in this area and
have some idea as to what needs to be done as far as controls.  Also, as
of now, I have no desire to start crossing tomato plants as I feel that
there is the right variety for me out there.  Just have to find it.

If any of you folks are in my zone, I would greatly appreciate hearin
from ya on what successes you've had on varieties.  I can't remember
what zone I'm in either, but seems to be on the transition between 7 and
8, but, I might be moving to zone 6 in the very near future.


Paul Reynolds
Environmental Agronomist
Austin Texas