Posted on 26 March 2008 by tomatocasual.com

Family Heirlooms – Why ugly is beautiful

Michael Nolan, Tomato Casual writerBy Michael Nolan

When I was young, my grandparents grew the best tomatoes on the planet.

I didn’t know anything about anything at the time, except that these things were ugly, they were big and man, were they good! It wasn’t until years later when my grandmother passed away that I would learn that not all of the family heirlooms were given to her ungrateful children.

Granny left me a small box full of tiny zip lock baggies.

Each was carefully labeled with a variety of names, many of which sounded foreign. It didn’t take me long to realize that she had given me her collection of heirloom tomato seeds. No one could understand why I was so ecstatic when I didn’t receive one penny from the estate, but they couldn’t possibly comprehend the value of that little cigar box on my lap.

The fact is that these seeds represent more than a few hundred priceless tomato plants, they represent home. They remind me of summer days in the garden and Saturdays at the supermarket where I would learn that the impeccable-looking tomatoes in the produce aisle were as misleading to the palate as they were to the eye. These perfectly-shaped fruits were tasteless and dry, nothing like the deformed, juicy and vibrant ones that taunted me while they sat in the kitchen window to ripen.

I still spend a great deal of my free time pouring through information, tips and history lessons regarding these precious tiny seeds. Perhaps you might agree with my family and friends and think me more than a bit obsessed. I can’t altogether disagree, but I’d be willing to wager a fair amount of money that I know whose phone will be ringing when someone needs the perfect tomato for their salads this season.

This is the first year that I’ve got enough land to grow more than a hint of a garden and I’m already watching my green beans, squash and cucumber plants reach for the sky. In another week or so I’ll be able to open this little box that sits on my desk and start my precious tomato seedlings.

I plan on sharing the entire process with you throughout the season, in the hopes that you might learn a fraction of what I have come to know about heirloom tomatoes and their rich history.

If you have any questions about heirlooms or tomato gardening in general, I would be more than happy to answer them and may even feature your question on the site in a future installment.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I hope you’ll decide to start your own!

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11 Responses to “Family Heirlooms – Why ugly is beautiful”

  1. tomatocasual.com Ray White Says:

    THANKS FOR A GOOD JOB TO ALL OF YOU.EVERYTHING THAT YOU WRITE IS SO HELPFUL, I HOPE THAT MORE TOMATO GROWERS WILL LOOK AT IT A LITTLE MORE. iT HAS BEEN A GREAT HELP TO ME IN WRITING MY JOURNAL. lOVE TO ALL OF YOU.
    DAD

  2. tomatocasual.com Frances Says:

    Hi Michael, I agree with Dad and will certainly by reading you regularly for hints and tips about tomato growing. What treasures you received in that cigar box, you are a lucky man, both with the memories of your family heritage, and a whole slew of heritage seeds!
    Frances at Faire Garden

  3. tomatocasual.com deb Says:

    That is just the kind of inheritance I would cherish. We will be here following your progress and looking for info.

    Deb

  4. tomatocasual.com our friend Ben Says:

    Michael, what a beautiful post! Years ago, my father gave me some small handmade seed packs containing tomato and pepper seeds that his father, who died before I was born, had carefully saved and labeled. Like you, I thought it was a very precious inheritance.

  5. tomatocasual.com Nancy Bond Says:

    I cannot wait to follow the progress of your tomato growing. What a priceless treasure you received. Nothing tastes as good as a sun-ripened, still warm tomato, fresh off the vine. 🙂

  6. tomatocasual.com Michael Nolan Says:

    Thanks for such a warm reception, everyone. I told Reggie that I knew this place just felt “right” to me and now I know why- it is because of all of you!

  7. tomatocasual.com Pam Says:

    Hi Michael, I stopped by, by way of Dad. Great legacy you were left. Very Interesting. Love Pam xx

  8. tomatocasual.com Michael Nolan Says:

    Pam, thanks for stopping by. I spent a few minutes reading through Dad’s website once I found it (hey Dad, your link is wrong!) and… all I can say is WOW!

    I love TC!

  9. tomatocasual.com tomatocasual.com Says:

    Hey Dad – I fixed your link. 😉

    You just want to cut and paste your website address from your address bar into the website space. Don’t worry, I’ll fix for you if you make a mistake 😉 Thanks to you and everyone for all the tomato love! -reggie

    http://journals.aol.com/white6416r/DadsTomatoGardenJournal/

  10. tomatocasual.com mss @ Zanthan Gardens Says:

    That is certainly an inheritance to treasure. I like how you’re growing your wealth. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the specific varieties you received and how they fare for you.

  11. tomatocasual.com WillE Says:

    Not sure you’re still posting Michael. But I planted heirloom tomatoes last year for the first time. This year, I did not have to start seedlings as the surplus tomatoes from last year came up as seedlings. The plants are now producing some very delicious fruit.

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