Dear Aunt Tomato on Tomatoes and Hockey Pucks

The information I provide to you is editorial and helpful in nature and cannot be construed as perfect truth.  Some of the information I am providing is based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience.  The benefit claimed has not been evaluated by the USDA or your local extension service.  Your results may vary.

I have a friend; we’ll call him Bobby Knorr.  If you’re good with words and hockey history, you will understand the joke.  Bobby is a friend from the late 1990’s and we were introduced to each other by a love of college hockey.  I am a University of Maine Black Bear men’s ice hockey fan of the Shawn Walsh era; I followed them passionately at that time.  One cold winter night in 2001, I even drove to Albany, New York for the Frozen Four semi-finals.  All by myself.  This blog isn’t about hockey, though, and I just can’t have a gang of rowdy hockey players ending up here.  It wouldn’t fit in with the Aunt Tomato image.  Let’s just say that once upon a time, Aunt Tomato might have thrown a rotten tomato at a hockey game and I’ve got the puck to prove it.  Enough said.  I’ve changed.

My hockey buddy Bobby Knorr has been a good friend to me; stepping in as needed as a wise younger brother, a savvy entrepreneur, and a sometimes dating coach.  We hardly ever talk about hockey anymore.  The other day, he sent me an Aunt Tomato question:

Dear Aunt Tomato,
Dumb question….I bought some cherry tomatoes at a farm stand this week; pretty tasty.  If I plant some of the seeds do I need to clean and dry them first or can they go in the soil whole, jelly and all?

Dear Bobby,
Thank you for your question; I wish you hadn’t asked.  I’ve been thinking about tomatoes for a long time and I can’t seem to sum up growing them in a simple and concise blog post.

To answer your question, YES, you would need to clean and dry the tomato seed from the delicious cherry tomato before you planted it in the ground.  I suppose you could just smash the whole thing into the dirt in June and see what happens, but your odds of getting a tomato by August are slim.

The scenario you have posed is fraught with complications and unknown factors and this is where it gets difficult and wordy; overtime for tomatoes.  Was the tomato you bought at a farm stand grown from a hybrid seed or an heirloom seed?  If your tomato was grown from hybrid seed, the resulting tomato seed will not grow at all.

Let’s assume you did buy some heirloom cherry tomatoes at a farm stand and you saved the seed.  Tomatoes need a long, hot time to grow.  The general recommendation is to start tomato seeds indoors 6 – 8 weeks before the danger of frost has passed.  Here in New England, that’s about 2 weeks ago or right now.  Some people claim they have directly seeded tomatoes, but I’ve never seen it around here.

The seeds will take about 7 – 14 days to germinate and they like to be kept warm.  Once they germinate, it’s important to make sure they get enough light to develop a strong stem and a healthy root system.  That means heat mats and grow lights.

If the seed starting goes well and you get some healthy plants by Memorial Day, it’s still going to take another 60 – 85 days from planting to maturity, depending on the type of seeds started.  Oh, and don’t forget staking or caging your plants and making sure they get enough but not too much water.

Growing tomatoes is fascinating and I do admit it has replaced NCAA Division I men’s college hockey on my list of passions.  Sometimes, it’s hard to be concise and brief about something I’m passionate about.  Let’s just consider this post one of many about tomatoes this spring and summer.

Bobby, I know you’re busy.  Maybe you might want to buy some heirloom tomato plants at your local farmer’s market in June.  Ask the grower about the seed stock and where it came from.  Then you’ll know for sure if you can save the seed.  If that doesn’t work, I’ve got some tomato plants started for you, okay?

To the trees, to the sky! To the spring in its glorious happiness,
Aunt Tomato

What type of tomatoes are you growing this year?

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