Monday, July 31, 2006

Garden Journal 7/31/06: Growing Arkansas Traveler Heirloom Tomatoes & How To Save Your Own Tomato Seeds

Arkansas Traveler tomato plants are one of my favorite heirloom tomatoes to grow from seed.

The pretty pink tomatoes are crack and disease resistant, and the plants don't mind the heat and humidity.

Realization Of The Day:
The scary experimental super trim I gave my two Arkansas Traveler tomato plants back on July 7th appears to be a success. What a relief! As you can see, all those green tomatoes at the base of the plants ripened nicely, and the tops have not only filled out with lush new growth but are also putting on quite a few more fruits.

There are two ripe tomatoes with minor pale splotches (I assume from 'sunburn'), but other than that, these beautiful rose colored babies are nearly all perfect and have a great flavor.

The plants were started on 2/6/06 with 2003 seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and transplanted into individual plugs on 3/20/06.

The seedlings were planted in a raised bed full of soil rich with aged sheep manure on 4/20/06. They were mulched with grass clippings which kept all but a few determined weeds from sprouting. I watered them regularly.

If you garden in a location with iffy and unpredictable weather like I do, and/or you often have a hard time getting good looking mature tomatoes, I highly recommend giving this medium-sized variety a try.

Don't forget to save the seeds from your best tomatoes to plant the next year! It's so easy:

1. Slice off the top of the tomato, squeeze the seeds into a small dish (by all means eat the rest of it!)

2. Add a little water (I can't remember why I do this part except that years ago I read that I should—and considering the VFN tomatoes I grew this year were from 5 year old seeds, I'm going to keep doing it).

3. Let them sit around for a day or two, then pour the seeds into a fine strainer, rinse them off, and allow them to dry in a little cotton drawstring bag, or spread out on some waxed paper in a protected spot, or however you like to dry your seeds.

4. Store your dry seeds in bags or containers (I use itty bitty zipper seal plastic bags) in a cool, dry place or in the freezer.

From Garden To Table:
So how have we been enjoying these luscious beauties (besides as Summer In A Bowl)? Well, the other night we piled thick slices on homegrown, grass-fed Angus beef burgers while they were still on the grill—and before we put on the cheese. Oh my.

Allowing the tomatoes to cook slightly, while sealing in all the juices between the meat and cheese, gave the burgers a whole different flavor. In fact, they were so good we had burgers again the next night.

And last night we had the first BLTs of the summer (though these were made with VFN tomatoes—a standard, disease resistant heirloom—pictured here and here). This is always a highlight of the year for us—and even more so last night since we used up our last package of bacon in the freezer. No, we can't just go out and buy some more. This was not your average bacon.

Every couple of years we purchase an entire hog that has been locally and naturally raised and have it butchered to our specifications, including having bacon made that's smoked without any nitrates or other additives. I'd never seen or tasted bacon like this before 'going whole hog.' It's so lean and meaty you have to add oil to the pan when you cook it up.

But back to the BLTs. That amazing bacon, thick toasted slices of freshly baked Farmhouse White basic sandwich bread slathered with mayonnaise, the most wonderful tomatoes on earth (because they were grown on our little piece of it), crisp Iceberg lettuce. Smirk or gasp if you will, but we're old-fashioned purists when it comes to BLTs—we love that Iceburg crunch—and besides, there hasn't been any lettuce in the garden in two months.

It just wouldn't be fair to show you a photo—which is good because once those heavenly sandwiches were assembled, the thought of taking pictures of them was the last thing on my mind.

It's reward time in the garden. This year's tomato disasters are for another day. Enjoy!

©, the vine-ripened foodie farm blog where we eat as many fresh tomatoes as we can during summer and then dream about them the rest of the year.


  1. Thems some purdy tamaters lady.

  2. Your tomatos have turned out wonderful! I really wonder if this was an experiment or you knew what you were doing and have been putting us on...Enjoy

  3. Well, thanks. I've often thought of trying to save tomato seeds, but I never got 'round to looking up the "right way to do it," and it seemed like it was probably going to be complicated. Your description sounds do-able. I'm going to use it this year with my favorite heirlooms: Black Russians. They are purple-skinned and meaty and tasty. I love 'em.

  4. I love BLT's, and your description makes me want one RIGHT NOW. I once saw Martha Stewart make a BLT on TV. Yours beats hers!

  5. Gosh, I think I need to do an extreme hair cut to my plants so they'll hurry up and ripen!! I've been furiously cutting them back, but never thought to take the leaves off!! Good advice. Off to grab the scissors!! Christan = )

  6. Can we come over for dinner? Our CSA has just temporarily suspended delivery of tomatoes due to the weather (too much or not enough rain? or both?), so we will be missing the fresh ones... Enjoy your bounty! The pictures look mouthwateringly good. :)

  7. You tease! I figure I'll be eating BLT before the end of the week. None of my BIG tomatoes that are ideal for the job are ripe yet, but I can certainly make do with the smaller tomatoes!

  8. Maybe I should scalp myself like you did your tomatoes if the end results are a full head of hair (or tomatoes!)...

  9. Oh, *so* not fair to post about delicious BLT's, link to your gorgeous Farmhouse White, but not have a recipe for the bread! I'm really craving a BLT now, even 'tho it's only 9:30am! Love your site.

  10. Ooooh gorgeous gorgeous tomatoes! And help! The husband decided to plant some tomatoes. He never planted them before. And we have tomatoes now! BUT, we have lots of leaves too... I am not sure how much should I cut... what should I cut... help helpp...

    Btw, I love your blog. Always visits here , what a bunch of info I have gathered. Thank you so much!

  11. Hi Farmgirl,

    I read your blog a lot -- i'm just starting out as a gardener. At the moment I have one tomato plant growing in my glassed-in porch (I live in New Zealand, so it is summer here, but the the weather is unpredictable, so inside is safer for the tomato, I think). But... I'm worried it won't get fertilised. Do I need to get out a paint-brush and wiggle it around in all the flowers, do you think?

    Anna L

  12. Hi Anna,
    So glad you're enjoying my blog. As for your question, I'm embarrassed to say I don't know for sure whether your indoor tomato plant needs to be hand pollinated or not. I did a little research and came up with zilch. I want to say yes it does--and it wouldn't be that difficult to do it by hand. I see "hothouse" tomatoes for sale all the time, but perhaps they are all hand pollinated.

    Another option would be to put it outside while it is blooming. You could always bring it in at night and/or cover it with floating row cover or a light sheet to protect it from cooler temps.

    This is an interesting question. Does anyone else have a better answer? Hope this helps a little, Anne--and I hope you'll report back on your tomato plant's progress. Good growing to you! : )

  13. Thanks Farmgirl,

    I've had similiar uncertainty and suggestions from other people I've asked -- there seems to be some kind of conspiracy about indoors tomatoes, preventing those in the know from telling anyone else if they need to be hand pollinated. I have been told recently that they are pollinated by small flies, not bees.

    I've been wiggling a paintbruch in the flowers and have put it outside once on a warm day. We are having the worst summer on record, so there have not been many warm days so far. I will let you know how it goes. Thanks for looking into it for me.

    Anna L


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

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