Everglades Tomatoes Seeds Update – March 2014

UPDATE April 2014: Due to the high demand and ungratefulness of some, I will no longer be offering free seeds. I spent hours of my own time and took food out of my family’s mouth (literally), only to have people bitch and complain about the speed of my free service. No more. I will be offering them for sale in the future, once I catch up with the outstanding requests. Until then, my family will be enjoying the fruits of my labors, not the ungrateful masses that feel entitled. To the folks that truly showed their thanks, I appreciate you, but the few bad apples have spoiled it for the rest.

 

I have been offering free Everglades tomato seeds for quite a while now. You can read about it here and here.

Back in February, I was interviewed for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. The reporter, Doreen Christensen, originally contacted me looking for Everglades tomato seeds, something I’ve offered for a while if you send me a SASE. After she received the seeds, we spoke briefly via email. It was then that she asked to interview me for an article she was writing about the Everglades tomatoes.

During the interview, she asked if it would be okay to include a link to my articles and if I would continue to offer free seeds for a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). Even after she reminded me that I would probably get swamped, I thought I would be able to keep up. After all, I did have over 1,000 seeds already saved for future requests….

Silly me.

Everglades seed requests
My current seed request backlog as of 20 March 2014

Since the article, I’ve been SWAMPED. I ran through my stock of seeds in TWO days! But, the plants are continuing to produce nice, juicy tomatoes, and each yields lots of fruit, in clusters of 8…so I WILL catch up. So if you’ve sent me a SASE already, just be patient…PLEASE.  As I write this, I have roughly 200 or so outstanding requests waiting to be filled….and that is less than half of what has already gone out!

Why all the uproar over a few free tomato seeds?

Everglades tomatoes appear to be a naturalized variant of tomato that has adapted to excessive the heat of Florida’s summer.

Based on my personal experiences, Everglades tomatoes are very heat-tolerant. Temps in the 90’s with humidity in the 80% range doesn’t seem to bother them much. And if properly watered, they seem to actually enjoy the heat. I water my raised beds three times a day, providing plenty of relief to any sun-parched plants, and allows me to grow things all year long, including out hot summers.

Not everything will grow in the summer heat here, but I have learned about enough alternatives to  “normal” vegetables that we always have a full garden. “Always” meaning 12 months a year. The plants I can grow varies from season to season, but I CAN grow things ALL the time! Some things just do better here growing in zone 10a. I’ve come to realize that many plants considered tropical or subtropical do very well….no surprise since we ARE a sub-tropical climate (yes, its obvious when stated out loud…but I just couldn’t comprehend that I live in a “jungle” climate!)

Tropical fruits and veggies aside, I’ve had many of the same problems growing “normal” garden produce here, mainly due to the lack of understanding on WHY what worked growing up in West Virginia simply does not work here in Florida. Once I started to realize that October through February equated to West Virginia’s spring/summer gardening season, and that everything else was simply hotter than I was used to, things started to get easier.

free seeds alternative sourceBut when I stumbled across a localized strain of tomatoes that had adjusted and gone feral, I wanted to know more about it. I did loads of research, and eventually ran across a supplier for some plants. They grew very well. And produced non-stop through the summer heat. The “cooler” months had tomato production slowing, but still the plants just kept on producing. It took a massive summer windstorm to eventually kill the plants I had, after having produced tomatoes for about 18 months.

Yes, tomato plants that grew non-stop for 18 months.

After losing most of my garden to the storm, I decided it was a good time to back up and regroup, so I stripped all the plants out of my raised beds to start fresh. It was obvious that I was going to need to dedicate one of the beds to just Everglades tomatoes, since they grew like kudzu, taking over all available space.

In clearing out my raised beds, I ended up with a massive pile of tomato plants, tomato leaves, and of course, tomatoes in all stages of ripeness. After moving all of the debris, it seems I missed several tomatoes – I now have volunteer tomato plants sprouting up all across the yard, neatly outlining the path I took to the compost pile!

So while the interview and newspaper article came out at the absolute lowest production time for tomatoes, the weather has improved, and the tomatoes are starting to come to ramp up production. At the current rate, I should have most requests filled in a few weeks.

My current process is to press the seeds out onto a non-stick sheet, then let them dry out. Each batch takes between 5-10 days to dry out. Dried this way will not keep them viable as long as fermenting them before drying can, but I expect each seed I send out to be planted within a month or so of their arrival.

After the seeds have dried, I open a seed request, taking out the SASE and setting it aside. I read any notes that might be enclosed, and sometime write out a reply. I Thank You Notesthen cut and fold the outside envelope into a smaller package, put 5-10 seeds into the newly fabricated package, and place it into the SASE. 

 

Then comes the worst or best part – sealing the envelope. Ever lick 50 envelopes in a row? Talk about a nasty taste. That is the worst part. However, some folks send the self-sealing envelopes, and those folks get a special thank you :)

Keep in mind I am stripping seeds out of tomatoes normally earmarked for my family to consume. So even if I have enough seeds to get your order out a few weeks earlier, are you REALLY going to complain if I keep a few tomatoes for my family? After all, in exchange for these seeds, I am only asking for a self addressed, stamped envelope. Not to be snippy, but how fast would YOU fill orders?My share!

So again, please be patient…and know that I will soon be discontinuing the “free seeds for a SASE” program. I will probably start asking for something to offset my time and efforts.

However, it isn’t just the time spent that has me changing my offer, it is simply not worth missing out on eating these tasty little things myself!

Peace,
db

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19 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for the seeds. I have transplanted mine already and they are about 8″ high. I am looking forward to delicious tomatoes. I am growing mine in gallon buckets on my porch as I don’t have any space for raised beds. They seem to be growing great.

    1. You should have tomatoes very soon…keep me posted as to how things go, please.

      And thank you for taking the time to post an update!

  2. I received my seeds in the fall? We are on the Gulf Coast near Punta Gorda but 5 miles inland. Anyway, I currently have 2 plants in a large container on my lanai. Can’t plant in the yard due to an overabundance of nematodes. They are covered with blossoms, tiny just starting tomatoes and some that are starting to ripen. Even the ripening tomatoes are tiny – more like a fat raisin size. None ever get into the house, I eat them on the spot. Not sure if my husband even gets any – too bad for him. Right now they are the only bearing tomatoes we have. Can’t wait to see what they will do when it gets hot. So…thank you for the seeds and they are certainly worth the wait.

    1. Make sure they get watered daily in the summer, and they will go crazy with growth and tomato production.

      Thanks for taking the time to post an update!

  3. db,

    You sent me some of the Everglades tomato seeds a few months ago. We live in the Keys and I have grown tomatoes for the last 7 winters. While my other tomato plants have had problems with whitefly and tomato horn worms, the Everglades tomato plants growing in the same areas have not. Have you had similar reports from other people?

    God bless, Dolores

    1. I’ve had tobacco hornworms on mine, they look very similar to the tomato hornworms. Those problems are based on if you have the parent moth in your area, not the plants variety or strain – they are opportunistic feeders, nothing more. I wrote about them here:

      http://floridahillbilly.com/tobacco-hornworms/

      I’ve not had ANY dealing with whitefly though, and am grateful, I’ve had enough other pests show up :(
      This may be because I released 5,000 ladybugs in my back yard :) I don’t spray ANY pesticides, haven’t in years,

      A hardy plant is the best way to combat any predation, though. These plants are simply hardy stock, and less susceptible, as far as I can tell. I’ve not had any reports of pests problems eradicating Everglades tomatoes.

      Hope this helps!

      Thanks for taking the time to post a comment,
      db

  4. I figured the general public could screw up a good thing. I did purchase the everglades seeds, I live in Pennsylvania, I now have the 3rd sprout up and trying to survive. Can’t wait to see if they survive and I enjoy those tomato’s. Thanks for the information and survival tips.

    1. Take a few cuttings indoors this fall, they should winter over fairly well, if they stay warm…

      Glad to help, part of my compulsive nature :)

  5. Sooo happy with the Everglades tomato seeds you sent to me! They are fantastic! I think I planted them the end of January and we’ve been enjoying them for a few weeks now – growing like crazy here in Cape Coral. I wish we could round up all the bad people and send them to DC. Oh wait…

  6. db, thanks for the seeds. Hoping to plant them this weekend. I am sorry to hear about the ungrateful masses. It only takes a few to spoil it for the rest. I knew there would be a rush after the Sun-Sentinel article and I am glad I got my seeds as quickly as I did. If they are good as they seem, I would have been willing to pay for them.

    1. I’m happy to be able to help. I’ve been out of town for a week, and have about a half gallon of tomatoes to harvest….and production is just starting to ramp up.

  7. Please let me know when you will have seeds available for the 2015 growing season. I would like to try them in “Yankee” territory to see if I get the same results. I have had much success growing my tomatoes from seeds for the last five years. I grow – Sweet 100s, Sweet Yellows (Both Cherries), Romas, Golden Girl, Cherokee Purples and have started to develop several crosses that have taken on a different generic disposition. I would love to add your seeds to my tomato experience to see what we come up with. Please email me when you have seeds available so I can send you an SASE.

    Babs

  8. I live right off US 27 in Pembroke Pines, FL. So I’m a close neighbor to the Everglades. For the past year or so we have been enjoying these gems and recently I’ve been having problems with these tiny green and sometimes whiteish worms.
    Don’t want to use any insecticides on them. Do you know of any kind of natural way of controlling these tiny pests.
    They are very had to spot on the plant, they tend to wrap themselves up on the fresh new leaves on the tips.
    And like you said, after you have these Gems in your garden they start to pop up anywhere. I actually have one growing in my potted desert rose plant that doesn’t have a visual soil around the roots (need to repot that plant). Guess they are from bird or lizard droppings.

    1. You can try my favorite method – direct pressure. (squish them, one by one).

      Other options are soapy water, and/or hot peppers ground in it. Try the soapy water first…and be sure to wash off the fruit before eating….

      And try to identify the worms…it usually helps in trying to combat the pests…..”Know Thine Enemy”.

      Peace,
      db

    1. I just pinch off the limbs. They tend to get long and rangy if I don’t.

      Or just let them go….there are far worse things to take over your yard!

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