Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Terremoto Squash Landrace

Terremoto Landrace:  The predominant hard pink version

By 2007 we had selected a handful of excellent pumpkinesque winter squash to grow, from among a large number we trialed in 2006.  Chief among them was Triamble, an Australian blue squash.  We loved the shape and the density, and Triamble also has a clean, small-grained flesh.  It's deep orange interior flesh is extremely flavorful, and it is an excellent variety for use in soups and as a hearty vegetable. 

Terremoto Landrace:  Some blue, hard-shelled "triamble-like" squash are produced every year in our Terremoto Landrace field. 

In 2007 we collected seed from our best Triamble fruits.  Because bees very actively transport pollen from flower to flower in squash fields, many of the seeds from those Triamble fruits contained hybrid embryos between Triamble and other squash growing nearby.  Thus when we grew plants from the "Triamble" seed in 2008, fruits of many sizes, shapes and colors were produced.

Starting in 2008 we began selecting our favorite 3-lobed squash every year, and saving seed from the best fruits.  The result is our current landrace of 3-lobed squash -- the Terremoto landrace.  Most of the squash produced each year are hard-shelled, and pink.  But many of them are softer-skinned and orange.  In addition to these two main types, we also still get some hard blue squash, soft-skinned green squash and even a small amount of squash with the coloration of Lakota squash (one of our favorites in 2007).  We even have a few every year that have sugar warts, which is not a surprise, because Galeaux d"Eysines was is one of the founding varieties in our landrace. 

Terremoto Landrace:  The commonly occurring soft-skinned, orange form.

Because we only select 3-lobed squash for seed saving, almost all of the squash produced from saved seed is now 3 (or 4) lobed.  While we select more pink and orange squash for seed harvesting, we do also select a few squash that are other colors as well, each year.  The cross-pollination work of the bees is also important, as it keeps the population "mixed-up" and interesting. 

The development of our Terremoto Landrace is an example of an alternative breeding approach often used by farmers.  It is not always necessary (or desired) to push varieties to genetic uniformity.  Keeping additional genetic diversity within a population is a good thing for many reasons, and for us one of the primary reasons is that our Terremoto Landrace sets our farmers' market stand apart from others.  Our customers love the shape and density of our 3-lobed squash, and they love the array of colors.  The hard-shelled forms can be kept for over a year, and then eaten after extended use for decoration. 

Seeds for our Terremoto Landrace can be purchased from our Artisan Seeds online store

Monday, November 17, 2014

Artisan Seeds memberships available for limited time

Our Artisan Seeds cherry tomatoes
Want to stay ahead of the curve, when it comes to growing new varieties of tomatoes that excite your customers or friends?  Become a Collaborating Member of our breeding business at Artisan Seeds.
We are signing up “Collaborating Members” between now and March 2015, and we will be providing a minimum of 32 new tomato varieties to our “Collaborating Members” over the next 10 years.  Members can be farms, gardening groups or individuals.
By signing up, you will be getting access to these new varieties at a cost of $6.25 per variety or less(because 32 varieties is the minimum number we will be sending out)!
How can we provide all these new tomato varieties?  It’s simple — although we operate a 6-acre organic farm,our primary business is plant breeding.  We have a large number of open-pollinated varieties (like our Artisan Cherry Tomatoes) that are either finished, or in their final phases of testing.  We are also now breeding some new gourmet F1 hybrids tomatoes, with small organic growers in mind.  These new varieties will contain disease resistance traits and increased shelf-life traits that, for small growers, can mean the difference between making and losing money on a tomato crop.

Produce Available for Sunol pick-up

Terremoto Winter Squash

The following items are currently available for pick-up in Sunol:

Terremoto squash -- $1.30/lb (5 lb minimum)

Spigariello (Broccoli Kale or Leaf Broccoli) -- $4/1 lb bag

Pea shoots (Daumeo) -- $4/1 lb bag

Cilantro blossoms -- $6/50 flower clusters

Nasturtium flowers -- $6/50 flowers

Please order (and arrange pick-up) by email, 1 day in advance.  See blog profile for email address.

What do people think of Artisan Cherry tomatoes?

Artisan Cherry tomatoes are still new to most people, but word is spreading. 

Some folks think Blush is pretty special

Purple Bumble Bee was nominated as "tomato of the day".

Sunrise Bumble Bee gets a rave review by this blogger.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Johnny's announces R & D Partnership with Artisan Seeds

All seven Artisan cherry tomatoes available at Johnny's

Johnny's Selected seeds has announced it's relationship with Artisan Seeds here, in the context of a discussion of their trialing and selecting process.

These tomatoes, the first fruits of our R & D relationship with Johnny's, will be available starting November 19th.

Our collaboration continues, and there will be more exciting varieties released in the coming years.  Stay tuned.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The story of Blush continues...

Blush:  Masterminded by Alex.  This tomato spawned a "rule" of breeding that we live by.

Blush was recently a taste-test winner in Pennyslvania.  Check out the tally sheet from the Franklin County Master Gardener's taste test (September 11, 2012)

Our julienne cherry tomato -- Blush -- was created when Alex (age 8 at the time) decided to cross his two favorite tomatoes.  It has been turning heads ever since.

Blush has also been very important as a parent line:  A few years ago, when we had accumulated a group of round, striped cherry tomatoes, they looked great, but didn't compete with Blush in flavor.  What did we do?  We held them back, and crossed every single one to Blush.  We think it was worth it, and now you can decide if you agree, because some of Blush's descendents are now available.

A little more history:  The year that the cross that created Blush was made, Alex participated in setting up crosses for our annual winter crossing list.  He chose 3 of the 19 crosses to be made that year, after the other 16 had been established (by a PhD-holding plant breeder with big plans).  The striking outcome is that about 90% of the value from that year came from Alex's 3 crosses.  The progeny from his crosses continue to permeate most everything we are doing.  

What was Alex's breeding secret?  He crossed his favorite tomatoes.

He didn't try to "fix" cool looking, but poor tasting, varieties.  He picked his 4 favorite tomatoes and suggested 3 crosses.  The striking results from that year spawned "Alex's Rule" of tomato breeding:  Cross tomatoes that taste great with other tomatoes that taste great -- because it is hard to get a mediocre-tasting tomato from two parents who taste great. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mareko Fana Diversity

Some Mareko Fana peppers are red. Most are brown.

Mareko Fana comes in many shapes.

The Mareko Fana that Menkir Tamrat brought us two years ago is probably best characterized as a "land race". Some are short, some are long. Most are brown but some are red. Most are thick-fleshed, but some are thin-skinned and delicate.

We are going to be evaluating and playing around with the diversity of our populations for a long time to come. However, in the short term we are selecting for two types of Mareko Fana:

Mareko Fana: Brown and thick-fleshed. Excellent for making Berbere spice. We typically use these mature, and dry them before use.

Mareko Fana Red: Red, thin-skinned and delicate. Fantastic as a frying pepper. We typically pick many of these young, and sell (or eat) them as frying peppers. The taste is mild when they are young.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Directions to the farm

Location of our farm in Sunol

Red arrow indicates 4-way stop sign. Blue dot is the Sunol Water Temple. Yellow rectangle is our field.

We farm adjacent to the Sunol Water Temple (as part of the Sunol AgPark), and we hold small hands-on workshops at our farm site.  Upcoming workshops are listed at

General tours, educational events and school visits to the site are coordinated by SAGE.