Photo of heirloom tomatoes, some cut open to show dense flesh and seeds.
Heirloom tomatoes are tastier, more colorful, and more sustainable to grown than the hydroponic “tomatoids” found in supermarkets.

– by Jan Stetson, Arlington, Massachusetts

Some people cherish silver flatware settings in velvet-lined boxes; some proudly display fine china in a lighted étagère.

My family keeps an heirloom tomato. My grandmother grew it every year and saved seeds when they lived in Virginia. She took some seeds along when she moved the family to Maine, and grew them every year and saved seeds. My mother grew them every year and saved seeds. Both my brothers grew them. I grew them.

In recent years though, what with advancing age and one thing and another, turns out nobody had grown them in quite a while. The most recent anyone could find were saved by my older brother in 2008. I found some more dating from the early 90s. Yikes! Can this tomato be saved?

heirloom seeds sprouting on heat mat
Jan’s heirloom seeds in various stages of germination.

My daughter found some advice online here. They say: “Heirloom tomato pioneer Carolyn Male has re-awakened 22-year-old tomato seeds. The documented record of rejuvenation is 50 years.”

Wow. So there’s hope!

Following the directions, I soaked seeds overnight, and yesterday set out to plant them. And here’s what I saw: In each of these photos, you can see at least one seed with a tiny root emerging from the seed, even the ones from 1992.

Signs of life!

So, they are planted in seed-starting soil, sitting on a heat mat in the basement, waiting for me to go out and get some plant grow lights. There are still a lot of ways this could all go pear shaped, so keep fingers crossed for these little guys. And may the Stetson Yellow tomato rise again!

Jan Stetson is a technical writer by trade, but her current passion is fiber arts and dyeing. She sells her creations at local craft fairs and on Etsy via Black Walnut Fiber Arts. She’s thinking about clearing space in the yard for dye plants – oh, and more tomatoes.

#kidinakilt #heirloomtomato #permaculture #heritageseeds

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Move over, dusty china set. Here comes the Stetson heirloom tomato project!
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