Tuesday, September 08, 2015

What is wrong with Maglia Rosa?

Maglia Rosa -- This tomato is the wrong shape!
Maglia Rosa has a weird shape for a cherry tomato
Most people would agree that cherry tomatoes are round and paste tomatoes are oblong.  Unfortunately, Maglia Rosa is a little pink cherry tomato with a confusing shape.  Initial expectations are often for it to be "dry" like a grape or paste tomato.  How confusing is that?!?  It is a sweet little tomato, but expectations are often low, based on its shape.  It would be interesting to know how many people have not grown the plants, or not tasted the fruits based on this confusion.

Maglia Rosa is a wispy runt
People are often impressed with long, sinewy tomato vines.  But Maglia Rosa vines are short, and the plant grows best as a low bush.  Trellising seems to only make things worse.  Plus, Maglia Rosa has wispy leaves that make people think it is not getting enough water, or is diseased.  It produces very well!  But, it would be interesting to know how many times Maglia Rosa plants have been pulled because they didn't look "right", and before they could show off their impressive production capabilities.

When Maglia Rosa fruits reach peak color, the flavor is not that great at all
Maglia Rosa has a disconnect between its deepest, most brilliant pink color, and its best flavor.  It tastes much, much better when it is light pink, even when it has hints of green.  What kind of a tomato doesn't taste its best when it looks its best.  Well, Maglia Rosa, unfortunately.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to grow Maglia Rosa? 
Who knows?  But perhaps it is because Maglia Rosa (when eaten at the right stage) is really a great tasting tomato.  At least that's what tasting panels at the University of Florida and experts at Penn State have concluded.  It might be because it is high in the aromatic compound Geranial (Citral), which is also found in citrus, lemon balm and lemon verbena -- and is correlated with taste-test performance. 

It is also a very productive, and early, tomato (when you don't rip it out early because it looks funny).  In fact, we know a number of small farmers in California, the Midwest, the Northeast and the South who rely on Maglia Rosa every year as their workhorse variety.  Because of its dense foliage, it can harbor pathogens and pests, but we have found this to mainly be a problem when it is growing in a very large field of tomatoes, and not when it is grown in a row or two on a small, diversified farm.

It is also a GREAT container variety -- given all of its problems.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Produce Availability -- Canning Tomatoes (seconds) are available!!

Caribbean Seasoning Peppers
Baia Nicchia Availability List – August 27

This is the availability that we send to chefs.  All items are available to anyone.  email us for details.  Sunol Pickup only!

Mixed Medium and Large tomatoes are very nice right now.  Please order! 

Mixed Artisan Cherry Tomatoes                    $30/12-pint flat
Mixed Medium/Large Tomatoes                 $28/10 lb box
Medium/Large Green (unripe) Tomatoes        $42/20 lb box
Tomato Seconds (not 3rds)                             $22/20 lb box 

Mixed Frying Peppers                                     $9/1 lb clamshell
Mixed Frying Peppers                                     $40/5 lb box
Aleppo Frying Peppers                                   $11/1 lb clamshell
Aji Amarillo Frying Peppers                           $11/1 lb clamshell

Caribbean Seasoning Peppers                         $9/1 lb clamshell
Dolce di Minervino Peppers                           $5/lb

Butternut Rugosa                                            $42/30 lb box
B. Rugusa Seconds (no long storage)             $13/30 lb box
Delicata squash                                               $28/20 lb box

Squash blossoms                                             $8/25 count clamshell
Nasturtium flowers                                         $6/50 count clamshell
White Borage flowers                                     $6/50 count clamshell

Yuzu leaf                                                        $6/3 oz clamshell
Roman Mint (Nepitella)                                  $6/3 oz clamshell
Red Stem Peppermint                                     $5/3 oz clamshell
Mexican Mint Marigold                                  $6/3 oz clamshell

Za’atar                                                             $6/3 oz clamshell

Coming later this season: 

Ripe Peppers (Aleppo, Aji Amarillo, Mareko Fana, Rocoto), Chirimen kabocha (September), Terremoto squash (September)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Magnificient 7 update

Orange Jazz

Seeds for the following tomato varieties were delivered to our collaborating members early in 2015.  These tomatoes are currently only available to collaborating members, or to backers of our current kickstarter project

1.  Jazz -- Open-pollinated (true-breeding) pink beefsteak with yellow stripes.  Very sweet, rich flavor.  Early versions of Jazz are shown in the photograph above.  Since then we have selected for shape uniformity (with less folding) and added firmness.  This is a great tomato for specialty farmers.  This variety has been selected under disease pressure for the past 8 years, and it forms very vigorous vines that are relatively resistant to fungal pathogens.   Slated for release Fall 2015

2.  Yellow Jazz -- Open-pollinated (true-breeding) yellow bicolor beefsteak with yellow stripes.  Bright, tropical, sweet flavor.  Early versions of Yellow Jazz are shown in the photograph above.  Since then we have selected for shape uniformity (with less folding) and added firmness.  This is a great tomato for specialty farmers.  This variety has been selected under disease pressure for the past 8 years, and it forms very vigorous vines that are relatively resistant to fungal pathogens.  Slated for release Fall 2015

3.  Orange Jazz --  Open-pollinated (true-breeding) orange beefsteak with yellow stripes.  Very unique looking tomato.  Sweet flavor has hints of peaches.  This is a great tomato for specialty farmers.  This variety has been selected under disease pressure for the past 5 years, and it forms very vigorous vines that are relatively resistant to fungal pathogens.  Slated for release Fall 2015, but may be entered into AAS competition, which would delay release for 1 year. 

Marzano Fire

 4.  Marzano Fire -- Open-pollinated (true-breeding) Red San Marzano-type tomato with yellow stripes.  The dry, meaty flesh and few seeds make this tomato excellent for sauces.  Vines are vigorous and productive.  Great for gardeners who want an incomparable sauce tomato.  Slated for release Fall 2015

5.  Fire -- Open-pollinated (true-breeding) A versatile meaty paste tomato.  Yellow bicolor with yellow stripes.  Selected for firmness, and fresh-flavor characteristics.  This tomato is great for use in Caprese salads.  The marbled flesh is very attractive and the fresh flavor is comparable to beefsteaks, when fruits are full-ripe.  Firm tomatoes (slightly pre-ripe, but full-color) are excellent for making sauces and for canning.  Slated for release Fall 2015

6.  Orange Caprese (formerly Sunol) -- Open-pollinated (true-breeding) orange plum tomato with very fine-grained flesh and delicate flavor.  Excellent when used to make light orange sauces for pasta dishes.  Can also be used with red sauce tomatoes to sweeten and brighten more typical sauces.  Also great fresh, as a caprese salad tomato.  Slated for release Fall 2015

 Spike -- A backyard tomato with a cult following in the Bay Area, due to it's bold flavor

7.  Spike -- Open-pollinated (true-breeding) deep purple/orange medium-sized tomato with stripes that vary from green to gold.  This is the perfect tomato for small backyard spaces.  Bushy vines are very productive, and the foliage is lacy.  Packed with flavor, which is great off the vine.  Rapid ripening and soft flesh present packing and delivery challenges for small growers.  This tomato is really best suited to gardeners, and the flavor is truly outstanding -- a mix of sweet and tangy, and very bold.  Spike has been released on a limited basis for years in the Bay Area, where we have sold Spike seedlings for almost 10 years. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Highland Kale Harvest Event

Highland Kale (Ethiopian Blue Mustard)

We are having a harvest event June 6th at our farm!  Attendees will be able to take home 20,000 freshly harvested seeds each, plus other Ethiopian seeds/plants/produce.  We also have a large number of pepper and tomato starts that are free to attendees.

Click here for more information, and to purchase a $5 reservation for this event.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Yellow Bumble Bee

An un-released "bumble bee" tomato we are working on -- It's working name is Yellow Bumble Bee

The flavor, shelf-life and productivity of this tomato are all exceptional.  This particular tomato (or something very similar) will be released in late 2015 to our Collaborating Members, and to the general public in late 2016. 

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

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 www.growartisan.com

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