By Kira Hamman
There is a story, no doubt apocryphal, that Abraham Lincoln’s cooks tried to poison him using a dish made of tomatoes.
They failed, of course, and tomatoes not only became one of Lincoln’s favorite foods but became wildly popular with the American public as well.
There’s justice for you.
But the real story of Abraham Lincoln and tomatoes is, of course, the Abraham Lincoln tomato. Introduced in 1923 by the H.W. Buckbee seed company of Rockford, Illinois, Abe Lincoln soon became an R.H. Shumway variety. It was billed as “the largest tomato ever grown,” appropriate given its namesake’s famous height. Shumway claimed that most fruits weighed about a pound, that many weighed as much as three pounds, and that the plant was sturdy and crack-resistant.
In my experience, Abe Lincoln tomatoes are indeed huge (although I don’t think I’ve ever had a three-pounder!) and their resistance to cracking means that they’re still beautiful and ant-free when many other varieties have succumbed to the drought-flood-crack cycle that is the norm here in late summer. Oh, and they’re delicious, naturally.
Shumway still sells Abraham Lincoln tomato seeds, and although the variety available today is not quite the same as the original Buckbee Abraham Lincoln variety, it’s still an open-pollinated heirloom variety, which means that you can save the seeds for next year if you want.
I think they would have made Abe proud.