Hear from the hardcore gardeners! This year, Kathleen Schenck and Mike Tuccini, of Holland, donated a very special tomato seed that they developed themselves. Today they tell us a little bit more about the story of how cross-pollination (when different genetic material is exchanged between seed varieties) occurred in their tomato plants and led to a tasty new treat!
How long have you been saving seeds?
Since the first year we moved here and started using the Seed Library: 2018.
How many years have you used the HDL Seed Library?
This is our 6th year--wooo!
Could you tell us a little about cross-pollination? How would you define it? Do you usually try to avoid it? Or are you a bit laissez-faire?
We're laissez-faire. We have a standard-sized city lot and grow a number of tomato varieties as well as potatoes, squash, cukes, green beans and peas, and this year, cape gooseberry (a type of tomatillo)! Two of our neighbors grow tomatoes, and we share a fence. And tomato plants. And tomatoes! So anything can happen. Blame it on the wind.
How did you realize your tomatoes had crossed?
We had a bramble of Yellow Candy Currant plants (seeds from HDL) and spotted one red tomato amidst all the yellows. I had read that Yellow Currant Tomatoes were closely related to native tomato plants in South America. So the little red tomato was interesting. Mike picked it and saved the seeds and planted them the next year. Then the next summer we got a red, and it was bigger than the last year's--more like a quarter than a dime. And we also got a green one the size of a quarter. The red one didn't taste like a cherry tomato; it tasted like a beefsteak even though it was small. And the green tasted amazing--extra sweet with just enough acid to balance it out.
How did you know you had stabilized your new franken-tomato?
We saved the seeds from that first green tomato and planted them the next couple summers. And we saved seeds from different green tomatoes and they kept producing the quarter-sized sweet green tomatoes.
Why did you decide to call them "Lake Mac Monsters"?
Monsters are green and mighty and so is this tomato! Plus we wanted the name to have a local feel since the tomatoes began at our very own library.
What's your best advice for someone new to gardening?
Go for it. Make mistakes. Start from seed. Ask questions. Bug MSU Extension by using its Ask An Expert tool. Ask librarians, neighbors, coworkers, teachers, anyone for their gardening tips. So many Hollanders garden, it's wonderful.
What is your all-time favorite vegetable?
K: Potatoes. M: Sweet onions.