By Jenn Mercer
During the holidays, many people enjoy getting together for cookie exchanges.
The idea is simple and the logic impeccable.
When you make a batch of cookies, you get a lot of one kind of cookie.
If you want two kinds of cookies, you need to make two batches (mmm… no downsides here). But — if you want a dozen different kinds of cookies, your kitchen is going to be trashed; you’ll have cookies coming out of your ears, and your jeans will have suddenly shrunk two sizes.
As I tried to decide what kinds of tomatoes to grow this year, I realized I had a similar problem. Even the most expensive hybrids usually have 12 seeds to a packet. Why not have a Seedling Exchange?
As with a cookie exchange, laying out a few ground rules in the beginning can avoid a lot of disappointment later.
- Decide if this will be a strict tomato exchange or if other herbs and vegetables will be welcome.
- Make a signup sheet to make sure that you have a good balance between peanut butter cookies cherry tomatoes and sandwich tomatoes. Leave a little leeway for crop failure and try to achieve a good balance between classics and exotic new varieties.
- Consider a blind exchange in which no one knows which tomato is which. Imagine the excitement of waiting for a tomato to ripen to see how big, and what color, it will become.
The Bonus Round:
After you have made your exchanges and everyone has admired the seedlings, it is time to get serious. Each member of the exchange will now have their own set of seedlings which were raised in the same conditions to take back to their home gardens. Which gardener will grow the tallest tomato plant?
Which will have the first tomato? The most tomatoes? This can also be a test of the tomato varieties. Was one tomato variety successful regardless of soil conditions and the attentiveness of the gardener? Is one variety susceptible to blight no matter whose garden it is in? This can be a friendly way to exchange notes or a serious competition. The choice is yours.