How to Choose a Tomato

With over 3000 heirloom tomatoes and a whopping 15,000 known tomato varieties in production, picking the right tomato for your own backyard can seem like a daunting process.

West Coast Seeds has provided this handy chart that may help simplify things a bit.

Obviously these are just a few varieties that this particular outlet sells, but it is good launching point for the overwhelmed tomato chooser!

Most of the varieties mentioned above are easily sourced at local nurseries as well.

Whatever variety you choose, you are sure to be rewarded by a smacking taste sensation. There is nothing like biting into a sun-kissed home-grown tomato. Unless it’s a sun-kissed home-grown tomato wrapped in a fresh basil leaf.


Grow Your Own Ketchup and Fries…From One Plant!

You can now buy a plant sold under various names (in Canada it is called Ketchup ‘n’ Fries™) that produces tomatoes and potatoes.

And no, it’s not GMO. Tomatoes and potatoes are from the same family, so are somewhat compatible at the outset. After lots of trial and error the industry has figured out a way to graft the top of a tomato onto the base of a potato. As you can imagine, it’s a bit of a nit picky process which demands that the circumference of both the potato and the tomato stalk be of similar size at the time of grafting. The plants then go through a bonding period before being released for sale. As a result, they don’t come cheap. The plants I stumbled upon yesterday in our local nursery were being sold for $25.99.


By all reports from gardeners who have tried this plant in the past, you can expect modest yields of both tomatoes and potatoes. For the same coin you could easily purchase a bag of two dozen seed potatoes and a packet of at least a dozen tomato seeds. But that’s not the point.

This is a gimmick and a fun one at that. If you are short on space or just want to grow this one for a novelty and can afford to do so, then it could be fun project. Especially if you have children.

It could also be a way of thwarting thieves if you garden in a community space or are subject to garden raids in your front yard. Who would think to pull up a tomato plant to look for potatoes? If you lose all your tomatoes at least you can take comfort in harvesting a few potatoes instead.

Vegetable garden bed

What was the First Vegetable to Sprout in Space?

The very first vegetable to ever sprout in space was the spud. That’s right, the lowly potato earned high flying status when Space Shuttle Columbia tested the production of seed potatoes aboard the shuttle in October 1995.

germinating potato

If you are interested in learning more about growing potatoes on space missions visit NASA’s post Space Spuds to the Rescue and learn about recent developments in  growing Quantum Tubers™


Biggest Pumpkins Ever!

The biggest pumpkin for 2015 weighed in at 2230.5 pounds (1011.7 kilograms). It was grown by Ron Wallace of Rhode Island. To date it is the heaviest pumpkin ever produced in North America. Despite its impressive size it fell short by almost 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of the world record set in 2014 by Beni Meier of Germany.

Beni’s pumpkin weighed 2,323.7 pounds (1054 kilograms).


Trip 103

A picture of a giant pumpkin with its regular sized relatives in its shadow. As big as this pumpkin is it would be dwarfed by the current record holders.


During the height of the growing season these hulking behemoths can put on as much as 50 pounds (23 kilograms) per day! Kind of makes me feel better about the four pounds I put on over Christmas. Not sure why, but it does.

Growing giant pumpkins can become all consuming with many people dedicating their lives to seeing how big of a pumpkin they can produce. With records being shattered year after year there doesn’t seem to be any limit to how big they can grow.

Interested in producing a giant pumpkin? Here are a couple books to help you get growing…

growing giant pumpkin


giant pumpkin

A border made of vine plants and a squash


Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

EWG has a wonderful website worth checking out. They list the most pesticide contaminated products as the Dirty Dozen and the least contaminated as the Clean Fifteen.

Here are the ones that made their most recent list in 2015…

Fall Apple Harvest


  1. Apples
  2. Peaches
  3. Nectarines
  4. Strawberries
  5. Grapes
  6. Celery
  7. Spinach
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Imported Snap Peas
  12. Potatoes




  1. Avocadoes
  2. Sweet Corn (organic non GMO)
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen Sweet Peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papayas (organic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet Potatoes

These lists help you make better choices at the market and if you have a garden spot, it can help you decide what to grow and what to buy.

Vegetable garden bed

It should be noted that even consuming the worst offenders is better for your health than eating processed or junk food so don’t use the dirty dozen as an excuse to give up on fruit and vegetables!

As EWG writes on its site “Eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally grown produce is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.”

Milk Fed Pumpkins

In the early 1900’s feeding milk to pumpkins was a popular trend. The method was reported to result in huge prize winning pumpkins. The technique involved using fresh cow milk. The pumpkin grower would put about a quart of milk in a small bucket, place it on the ground and then cut a slit in the vine and insert a straw or rubber tube. The tube was then placed in the bucket. Another quart of milk was added each day until the pumpkin had reached its optimum size or the day of the Country Fair arrived…whichever came first!

Bucket with milk

Many growers reported that the vines liked the milk so much and became so used to their feeding schedule that they actually rustled their leaves when the person approached the plants with the milk!

A border made of vine plants and a squash



Squash Vines Will Move Towards Water

If you place a bowl of water a couple feet away from a thirsty squash vine (pumpkin, spaghetti, butternut etc.) during a drought or when the soil is on the dry side, the vine will actually move towards the water and eventually place itself right in the bowl.

It doesn’t take long. Usually if you set the bowl of water out in the evening a vine will have found its way into it by morning.

If this sounds a bit like plant torture, well, that’s because it is. But it is also pretty amazing!

A border made of vine plants and a squash


Are Tomatoes Really Perennials?


Some say annuals, some say perennials…but tomatoes are really perennials.

Growing  tomatoes

A local greenhouse owner caused quite a stir in our northern community when a Bonnie Best tomato sent roots out the bottom of its tiny pot and anchored itself into the gravel and earth floor of the year-round heated nursery. In the months to follow it grew like a magic beanstalk (or tomatostalk as it were) all the way up to the twenty foot ceiling. And then it kept on growing some more.

Vector Illustration Of Beanstalk

These crazy long vines produced tomatoes all summer long and then continued to put out blossoms and more fruit all through our long Zone 2b winter. In the spring it was still growing strong. The husband bravely climbed extension ladders year-round to harvest the prolific offerings. Everyone that came to greenhouse paid homage to the “miracle” tomato.

Of course, it wasn’t really a miracle at all. The tomato was simply being a tomato. Since most of us grow tomatoes in colder climates, we tend to think of them as annuals. An annual lives, produces and dies in a single season. But this is not the true lifespan of a tomato plant. Given a frost-free tropical climate a tomato would continue to produce fruit for several years. They would be cut down or severely pruned once a year to keep production flowing. In fact, the first year is usually a tomato plant’s poorest, production wise, compared to the years that follow.



How Many Peas in a Pod and Other Pea Facts

The average pea pod contains seven peas.

Fresh peas in the bowl

For every 3 meters (10 feet) of shelling green peas planted you should harvest at least .90 kilograms (2 pounds) of shelled peas or 591 ml (2 1/2 cups). Overall yield depends on the growing conditions, variety selected and how often you harvest.

To get the highest yield possible, be sure to pick peas every three to four days. Why? The purpose of a pea plant isn’t to feed you, it is to set seed to ensure its lineage carries on. Once a pod of peas has matured enough to be used as seed the plants purpose is fulfilled and it will die a peaceful death.  Keep picking the peas before they mature (and when they are the most tasty) and the plant will keep producing more peas for as long as possible.

growing peas

Ten Bonus Bits of Pea Trivia!

  1. In 1984 Janet Harris of Sussex, UK set a world record by eating 7,175 peas in one hour, picking them up one at time with chopsticks.
  2. Green peas are an underrated super food. They contain ridiculous amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.
  3. A recent study indicated daily consumption of green peas could lead to a decreased risk of stomach cancer.
  4. The green pea has been around for thousands of years, originating in Central Asia and the Middle East. It is thought to be one of the first food crops cultivated for human consumption with crops dating back to 7800 B.C.
  5. Less than five percent of peas grown commercially are consumed fresh. While they may not give you a great return on your garden space, they are worth planting just to have the experience of fresh peas. Its a delectable taste sensation that fewer and fewer people experience.
  6. If you can’t eat them fresh, choose frozen instead. Frozen peas retain more flavor and nutrients than canned versions. But fresh is still best!
  7. Pea “tendrils” the small shoots that wrap themselves around the trellis or fence to support the vine, are perfectly edible and have a very pea-like delicious flavor.
  8. While most plants keep the nutrients they take from the soil peas give back as much as they take. Pea roots will fix nitrogen into the soil and leave it there for other plants.
  9. Hans Christian Anderson published “The Princess and The Pea” in 1835.  Anderson based it on a story he had heard in his childhood. It was not well received. Critics disliked its conversational style and found it lacking in any kind of useful morals.
  10. And finally, while we are on the subject of folklore and fairy tales, if a person finds nine peas in a pod the next eligible partner that comes along will be their husband or wife.

Blonde princess kissing the frog at night