Tomatoes Galore

I’ve got tomatoes on the brain these days. Last weekend I had a table at Seedy Saturday at the Brickworks here in Toronto and the highlight was trading for some new tomato varieties. I walked away with at least ten new varieties feeling like a kid in a candy shop. That giddy feeling hasn’t worn off. I love tomatoes! The hard part comes next in deciding which to grow.

Later, when I got home from the event I took stock of my total tomato seed collection and was shocked to discover that I have collected over 130 varieties. I had never bothered to count before now. No wonder I have a harder and harder time narrowing down the list that will end up in the soil each year!

Last year was my best tomato season ever. By the time the hard frost hit we had harvested 110lbs of ripe fruit (NOT including cherry or currant varieties) plus another 30 or so pounds in green tomatoes. I don’t think I grew more plants than I have in the past as there were years when I was able to split the plants up between 3 gardens, and I recall one year just under a decade back when I was able to fit 16 plants into the community garden plot, plus the same on the roof. I think the windfall came down to even better, sunnier growing conditions and a really hot summer.

With an abundance of fruit and really healthy plants, I was able to save more seed last year than ever before. I have a generous collection of unusual varieties that are hard to find and more than I will trade, so this year, on a lark, I’ve decided to sell some. This is not a money making scheme by any stretch and will *maybe* make enough to pay me back for the amount of time I have put into it. Still, I couldn’t resist and I have to admit that I had a lot of fun designing the packages!

You can see all of the varieties I have on offer over here. I have a few more that I might do up, but these were the best, the hardest to find elsewhere, and most are very good for small space gardeners. I especially know you’ll love ‘Hahms Gelbe Topftomate,’ an insanely productive plant considering its diminutive size. I get a lot of questions about that one and people are always amazed by its beauty. This is your tomato if you only have a 1 foot square of space that receives full sun.

The surprise breakout star of last season’s planting was ‘Maglia Rosa.’ I’ve grown enough varieties by now that I no longer hold too much hope for the particularly gorgeous, striped tomatoes. Some are indeed very good, but many of the most ornamental types tend to be a let down in some way, whether its in taste, texture, or productivity. We absolutely loved this variety and I found that it made an especially good oven dried variety. It’s got a nice compact size that I am betting would work well in an extra large container like a garbage can.

I am planning to grow it again this year, but even I can’t say for certain that it won’t get knocked out of the running at the last second by some strange new weirdo that captures my imagination on a whim. Alas, there are so many incredible tomatoes to try yet, and never enough space to grow the number that my heart desires.

UPDATE: WOW! These sold fast. There are just a few more left. I am away this weekend but I do have a few more ‘Hahms Gelbe’ that I will post upon return.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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31 thoughts on “Tomatoes Galore

  1. I’m seriously expanding my tomato plantings this year. I have a feeling I’m going to be desperately stuffing tomato plants in 5 gallon bucks in a few weeks in order to get just that one more plant!

  2. Those Maglia Rosa tomatoes look gorgeous! I have really been enjoying reading your books (I have borrowed the first two from a friend) and your blog. Thanks so much for all the gardening help and inspiration! :)

  3. Oh I love growing tomatoes. I am getting ready to move so I have no idea what my planting conditions will be yet, nor have I been able to start anything. :( I do have plans, though!

  4. Oh boy! You’re right, I’m excited about the Topftomate, especially since I have some friends who want to start growing in containers, but don’t have any idea where to start (note: they have already been gifted GGG). Dwarf tomato varieties are so hard to find in the garden centers, so I’ll start these for them (and for me too)! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Oh…. so jealous. Your tomato haul last year was spectacular. Can’t wait to be a tomato-spectator again this year! If I only lived in a tom-friendly climate, I’d go absolutely nuts.

  6. Oh drat. Your seeds are selling like hotcakes…I just casually went and added two packs to my cart and got distracted then by all the loveliness that etsy has to offer. I just missed out on the last pack of ‘Hahms Gelbe Topftomate’ thanks to browsing watercolor prints. Be sure to post if you have any more!

  7. Awesome. Another Canadian on Etsy. I sent my mom and dad and their neighbour (huge, beautiful veggie garden) your link :)

  8. Those are some very tempting varieties… if I hadn’t just sown 48 plants and 20 varieties I’d be ordering Hahms Gelbe Topftomate and Maglia Rosa. Will you consider offering them again next year?

    I really like the packages and your descriptions. I received some rare tomatoes in swaps this year and one of my goals is to make more detailed observations about growth, yield, and flavour so I can make nice seed packages for swapping.

  9. Oh, how I love tomatoes. It can be a challenge to grow them here in the PNW, but it doesn’t keep me from trying. Last year I kept the Wall o’Water around one until mid-June and was rewarded with a bumper crop of tomatoes…well a bumper crop for here :-)

  10. How do you store your seeds? Just wondering if I’m asking for trouble with my own low tech (i.e. basement shelf) seed storage system. I’m attached to my collection, although it isn’t nearly as large as yours.

    • I keep them in the coldest part of my basement through the summer and shift them to an unheated room in the winter. They are stored in a spot that doesn’t freeze but stays cool.

  11. I’ve tracked down some Hahms Gelbe Topftomate over here south of the border (Canadian seed sellers wouldn’t ship to the US due to issues they’ve had at the border getting their seeds across) and I’m very excited to have at least 6 seedlings well on their way. I can’t wait for those yummy orange-yellow tomatoes!

  12. All out of the Hahms Gelbe Topftomate seeds? :( any chance there will be more, or any suggestions on where I could snag some seeds? Currently, living in the oh so sunny state of Massachusetts.

    • Trish: I actually got them on eBay from a gardener for about $2 and I’ve had good success with germination. The woman I got them from was kind enough to also send me some seeds of another tomato variety; Polish Beta, anyone heard of this type of tomato? Apparently it’s good for pots and I assume it’s a determinate but my Google searches didn’t produce many results.

  13. Ugh I’m so mad now, I remembered I wanted to try those little yellow Hahms ones, and the Seedy Saturday has passed, damn! I want to ask though, when you save your seeds, do you worry about them pollinating with other tomatoes? Do you plant them apart from each other? Will a heirloom variety revert back to a boring tomato? And how long do you think your tomato seeds last?

    • Tomato seeds last for ages. Yes, cross-pollination is an issue but you can hand-pollinate and cover the flowers with small bags to avoid that if you are saving seed. You do not have to grow at a distance.

      Heirlooms and other open-pollinated varieties can cross with each other to create something slightly different.

  14. Do you ever get problems with blight there? Here in the UK I stopped growing tomatoes after 3 soul destroying years of growing tomatoes only for them to be wiped out overnight by blight.

  15. Wowzers! I went to your Etsy store and it looks like nearly everything has sold out in the last two days. If you restock anything, I’d love to buy some.


    • I’m headed out for the weekend so I’m not adding more, but I do have a few Hahms Gelbe left that I will post after the weekend.

  16. Auuugh! I missed this post by a day and lookie there, the sore is almost sold out?! I actually already did my tomato order for this year, adding three new variaties to my repretoire! [so scary!]
    That “Michael Pollan” one looks quite enticing though…
    I hope that this year will be a good tomato year for me too! My cherries did AMAZING but I laxed on the planting and didn’t get that many large fruit… an expanded growing area and some new containers will help that!

  17. Any possibility that more Hahms Gelbe will be available? I read this post too late last week. Thanks for making these seeds available.

  18. Hi Gayla it was good to meet you at the Brickworks. I was so happy to buy the yellow dwarf cherry tomato seeds from you that I had seen pictured on your blog. You should know that those seeds/seedlings will be spread near and far amongst friends and family and will make an appearance in a community garden near me.

  19. Those tomatoes look delicious! I just moved to northern BC and am hoping of starting my garden in May (we’re zone 3, and the frost free date is June 4th!). I’ll be trying some short season veggies but on some things I’ll be throwing caution to the wind because I want to try them (I dont mind failing lol).
    I’m glad I found your site, since it’s given me some good ideas for this year. I see you like determinants :P I have a tip for the indeterminant varieties – drill a hole in the bottom of a hanging planter and hang them out the bottom (I hate topsy-turvy’s by the way). No staking needed, and you can plant something else on top (nasturiums maybe, or basil)

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