August 19, 2012

My Convincing Argument - Grafted Tomatoes Prove That Their Worth It

MASSIVE FLOWER TRUSSES ON A GRAFTED SWEET 100 TOMATO PLANT - 7 FEET TALL, AND NO SIGN OF FALL BLIGHT - ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

I have been so impressed with grafted tomatoes, that I wonder why I still grow conventional plants. I guarantee that in 5 years, all of you will be raising grafted tomatoes, and not seed-raised home grown plants. Grafted tomatoes are not new, since grafting peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers is a common p practice for greenhouse crop growers, and the method has been used for years in Japan and Europe. The concept is simple, graft a tasty, or heirloom variety onto a rootstalk that has been selected for vigor and root making. The result? Bigger plants, bigger yields and bigger tomatoes. Grafted plants can handle stress better and they are far more resistant to blights, which if anything, is the main reason why I would choose grafted plants over traditional un-grafted plants.

I tried grafting my own plants two years ago, but I struggled with timing the scion and the rootstalk plants. I will try again next spring, as I have all of the materials, but as grafted plants becoming easier to find, you may just find that buying them will be an easier option. Rootstalk seed is expensive, almost prohibitively so ($30-$80 for a packet of healthy rootstalk seed), but when one only needs a few plants, buying them is an option.

 Full disclosure - I cheated this year -, my plants came courtesy of the Home Depot who asked if I wouldn't mind trying some varieties that they will be carrying next year in most of their stores. Since I had little luck starting my own grafts, I agreed. I also planted them along side the same seed-raised varieties that I had started - in a side-by-side comparison test. The truth? Most of the others are now dead, but the grafted plants are still growing strong. They have a hint of fungus, but not nearly the amount that my traditional plants have. It seems that now the the Home Depot will be carrying plants, you should not have a problem finding them next spring ( at least in North America). For lovers of heirloom plants, this is a Godsend, since heirloom tomatoes are some of the most susceptible to soil borne virus'.
LOOK AT THE FLOWER TRUSSES AT THE TOP OF THE GRAFTED TOMATO ON THE LEFT. THE PLANTS ON THE RIGHT ARE SEED RAISED IN MY GREENHOUSE.


MY SEED RAISED TOMATOES ARE SUFFERING WITH LATE BLIGHT, WHICH STARTED A FEW WEEKS AGO. SO SAD, BUT, THE GREEN TOMATOES WILL MAKE GREAT PICKLES.


THIS YELLOW GRAPE TOMATO HAS BEEN THE HIT OF THE SEASON.  'GOLDEN SWEET F1' IS A VARIETY THAT I WILL GROW AGAIN. THE BEST PART? THIS SAME VARIETY SELLS FOR $5.99 A PINT AT OUR LOCAL FARM STAND! IT HAS BEEN PROLIFIC, AND, THE FLAVOR IS EXTRAORDINARILY SWEET.
THE TOMATO CROP THIS YEAR IS JUST STARTING, ANY ALTHOUGH NOT THE BEST YEAR FOR TOMATOES, IT IS ALSO NOT THE WORST YEAR.

ON THE LEFT, PICKLED CAULIFLOWER (REFRIGERATOR FRESH PICKLES) - ON THE RIGHT, GINGER, GARLIC AND CURRY PICKLED CAULIFLOWER (TO BE FERMENTED). I USED BlACK PEARL CHILI'S SINCE I DID NOT HAVE ANY OTHER CHILI PEPPERS THAT WERE RED YET. THEY'LL WORK FINE.

I felt so compelled to 'put something up', and I really don't know why. Maybe it's because I always remember my parents doing it - there was hardly a late summer day when we were not canning somethings when I was a kid. I mean, my mother was almost obsessive about it - no, she WAS obsessive about it. We never just canned willy nilly, when harvest time came, we seriously canned - as if we were preparing for the apaocolyse. We would never starve, since we could live on hundreds of quarts of Bread and Butter pickles. So, I guess as the crops of late summer arrive, it comes as no surprise that I should want to can a few pints of pickled beets, pickles and tomatoes. 

Today I canned a few quarts of cauliflower. I didn't grow it, it came from our local farmers market, but everything else came from the garden. The heirloom garlic, the peppers, even the coriander seed heads. These are fresh pickles - I mean, they are being fermented, but not processed - so they are not cooked. I like my pickles to be crispy. Both recipes are from THE JOY OF PICKLING by Linda Ziedrich. Next week, I will start making some of my mothers pickles - recipes that were handed down from her father, who was born in 1889. Pickles are like gifts from the past - the recipes are handed down, generation to generation - I love using the old crocks that are in the cellar, that were my grandparents. They have held pickled green tomatoes and sauerkraut ever year since 1910, but I also like to add a few new pickles to the list - Japanese pickles, German pickles and this year, some Indian inspired pickles such as the ones above.


JALAPENO'S!

4 comments :

  1. Matt, I love all your beautiful, crazy plants.

    I see you are pickling in sealed jars. I thought I had to keep my pickles in open jars (cheesecloth covering the top, vegetables completely submerged) until pickles are pickled, is this unnecessary?

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  2. Wow, didn't know about the grafted tomatoes. Is this what I'm buying at Home Depot?

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  3. Anonymous8:53 AM

    Looking at this in spring 2014. After being so enthusiastic in 2012 about the MIghty Mato and grafting, I don't see that you ever mentioned them again on this blog (based on my search of it for both "grafted" and "mighty"). I only see you talking about raising and planting tomatoes from seed. Does that mean you ultimately weren't as taken with these products as were when you wrote this post? Why did you write "I guarantee that in 5 years, all of you will be raising grafted tomatoes, and not seed-raised home grown plants," and then apparently yourself raise from seed the very next year?

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  4. HI ANONYMOUS- this was my follow-up to the Mighty Mato post from June, but you bring up a good point - I have not mentioned it again. I think I have not made up my mind about grafted tomatoes, but I do feel that my prediction is coming true. In 2010 only one on-line retailer offered grafted plants, and the following year Johnny's Selected Seeds posted a DIY video and offered grafting supplies, which I tried - and failed. This year, most every big box store is offering some grafted tomatoes. As for predicting that "everyone will be growing them in 5 years" I was optimistic, and perhaps too dramatic. Maybe if there was a regional outbreak of Photophora infestans again, as it seemed as if it could arrive early each year back in 2009, then yes - we all would be growing grafted plants. Even though most every tomato now commercially grown is grafted, we may not see the need to only purchase grafted plants for the home garden, until more people have veg gardens, and P/. infesfestans becomes omnipresent as the common cold. It may take more time, or, it may balance itself out. Right now, I do treat grafted plants as one would treat the flu shot. I still plant a few in case we get an early emergence of P. infestans, but there are times I go commando and take my chances. I am curious how the public will respond moving forward? On that note, I am grafting cucumbers this year for use in the greenhouse, but I will only buy grafted tomatoes to augment my collection at home. Not sure if that defeats the purpose at all, but it does make me feel like I have an insurance plan. I still raise tomatoes from seed, and I will continue to do so until P. infestans becomes as bad as if looked like it was, 3 years ago. Given the option, I would grow all grafted plants, but it seems the retailers and buyers are still resisting ( probably due to price point). The selection also keeps me from ordering online, as there are only a few varieties available, even though many seed companies are now offering grafted plants. On that note - new engineered plants ( genetically) are emerging which may make the need for grafting unnecessary.

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