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The Everglades Tomato (and free seeds!)

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.

(Read the followup here)

(Yes, FREE seeds!) A few years ago, I heard of a naturalized tomato found in the Everglades, and how, once established, it grew more like a weed than like a garden tomato. Thriving on neglect, and scoffing at the heat and drought, the Everglades tomatoes had a reputation of being the ideal year round crop for a lazy Florida gardener like myself.

Yes, I’m a lazy gardener. And here in Florida, if your garden gets water from a timed system (no user input needed), then you WILL have issues. Things like the plants have overgrown the beds and are spilling out into the yard. Sometimes those plants are weeds. (OK, for me that is MOST times) However, sometimes, it is the target plants that does this. This is the case of my Everglades tomatoes.

I’ve mentioned my raised beds before. I use three pieces of 2×8,10,or 12 inch untreated pine lumber. (Yes, it rots. Only takes about two years.)  Two of the pieces are the long sides, the third piece is cut in two, for the short sides. This gives me a garden bed that is 4 feet by 8 feet. I use metal push-in stakes at each corner, and then install plastic poultry netting around the entire bed to prevent my ducks and chickens from eating all of my produce.

Everglades Tomatoes

This spring, I had a volunteer Everglades tomato plant appear in one of my beds, and it took over. Completely. One plant covering a 4×8 foot bed…and then started spilling over the fencing, easily covering as much space outside the fence as inside. IT even started to grow into the next garden bed over….about three feet away!

So I decided to trim it back. A LOT. Anything outside the fence was cut down. This left us with a large pile of future compost… but not before we picked through the pile of tomato branches to get all of the green tomatoes

The green tomatoes were washed and turned into pickled green tomatoes, a mighty fine treat we call “Tomolives” . Go to this article I wrote on how to make “Tomolives“.

Everglades Tomatoes I picked in about two minutes

Everglades Tomatoes I picked in about two minutes Thursday night

The Everglades tomato is very prolific. We harvest tomatoes almost daily. Our single plant produces up to a pint of ripe tomatoes each day, each about the size of a marble. Not overly acidic, these have the flavor of tomatoes from a generation ago, when tomatoes actually had flavor.

Propagation from seeds is rather easy – drop a tomato into some dirt, and keep it watered. From cuttings it works about the same as seeds, only gives a strong plant much faster. Simply cut a branch off, stick it into the ground, and water it. You can use a rooting agent if you’d like, but I rarely do.

Rooting some cuttings was the method we used to get some Everglades tomatoes to BlueTang. I took four cuttings, and wrapped the cut ends in a wet paper towel for the trip to his place. Once there, we stuck them into some potting soil, and he kept them watered. In a few months, he won’t have to buy tomatoes ever again.

Well, as long as he doesn’t want “slicers”. The only downfall for these little guys – making a sliced tomato sandwich it pretty difficult. I’ve yet to find sliced bread that small :P

So here is what I am offering to my readers. (New request – subscribe to my mailing list, please. Subscription box is in the right column near the top of the page under the red box.) Email me db at floridahillbilly dot com to get my address. Then send me a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) and I’ll put 5-15 seeds into a small package (made from your outside envelope more than likely!) and mail it back to you in your provided SASE. You can then start growing your very own Everglades tomatoes. Cost :your stamps and envelopes and my time. No other charge.

(March 1, 2014 Update: I have sent all of the dried seeds I had stockpiled and I am waiting on more tomatoes to ripen to get more seeds to send out. I currently have over 200 pending requests to be filled due to an article published in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel in late January. I’ve sent out over 300 requests in the last 30 days! With our local weather in the 70s-80′s each day, I should be caught up in about a month.  I will fill requests in the order they arrive, and as my tomatoes ripen. Keep in mind these tomatoes are also for my family’s consumption, so don’t be upset if it takes several weeks to get to your request.)

 

Call it my way of helping you help yourself. That way, we all win!

Peace,
db

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As always, please “like” FloridaHillbilly on Facebook, subscribe to my feed, follow me on Twitter, add it to Google+, Pinterest, Linkdn, Digg, and/or tell your friends! The more folks that learn self reliance, the fewer folks that will call you up to bother you about taking them spearfishing.

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  • MP says:

    Did I miss your email address?

    April 19, 2013 at 07:21
    • db says:

      Sorry about that, one of the pitfalls of writing at the end of the day.

      I added it in….I’m sure it is somewhere on the site….but why make you look?

      April 19, 2013 at 07:31
  • Amanda T. says:

    Can you bring some of them fine tomater seeds tomorrow to Green Deane’s class? I would be eternally gratefully :)

    April 20, 2013 at 13:08
  • Jacquelyn says:

    Hi,
    I just started my garden this past year and I am learning as I go. Have a variety of tomato plants.- not looking that great.
    I was wondering if I can trim back my everglades tomato plants. Have gotten very tall and stragly. Can you offer me some good advice? I am afraid if I cut this down that I will damage them.
    Thanks.
    J

    April 21, 2013 at 18:59
    • db says:

      Cut them back…and replant the ends. You’ll get clones of the parent plant, and they will start “fresh”….repeating the grow/produce cycle.

      I do this very often, in fact. It is one way to save me from having to start from seed.

      April 21, 2013 at 21:22
  • db says:

    The SASEs have started to arrive, get filled, and go back out!

    April 22, 2013 at 15:53
  • olivia says:

    Received my tomato seeds from you yesterday. I have spread the seeds and the small piece of paper towel used to pack them, on a piece of foil and placed them in my shady kitchen window to dry out. Can’t wait to plant them. We had to restart our raised garden due to sprayed week killer drifting over the area. Went back to several places to get more heirloom plants and found none. Apparently everyone is getting on the bandwagon and learning to grow the “older” plants.
    Thanks so much for all I am learning from you.

    April 28, 2013 at 14:06
    • db says:

      Not sure how well it will work for everyone, but I just threw my whole tomatoes into some dirt and got seedlings :)

      I must have a green thumb! (Bu then I also threw about 25 tomatoes there, of course I got something to grow!)

      April 28, 2013 at 19:55
  • Shell says:

    Hi neighbor!

    I found your article while digging around for info on the Everglade tomatoes. I planted my seeds a while back and a few have sprouted but haven’t gotten taller than 3″ in the last month or so. Do you happen to know how fast they grow? Is the growth stunt normal right now? I’m guess that they should be producing fruit by now which may be the reason. Will they die back during the winter? Thanks in advance!

    July 5, 2013 at 15:48
    • db says:

      If they are getting plenty of water and light, they should be growing. Are they in direct sun for most of the day? They might be getting too much heat, you might try watering them twice a day. Mine are watered three times a day, 15 minutes at 8am, 5 minutes at 2pm and 5 minutes at 6 pm.

      The heat around here at mid day is brutal. Water allows the plants to cool off a bit

      And mine are growing like weeks…and I’m getting more volunteer plants coming up.

      Hope that helps,
      db

      July 6, 2013 at 10:52
      • Rob B. says:

        Any chance you still have some for seeds? Since I am converting all of my growing to aquponics, I have nearly empty beds being blazed by the Tampa Bay sun. Everglades tomatoes would be perfect filler. I’ll send a mailer if you have some.

        July 6, 2013 at 12:00
        • db says:

          Yup, plenty more…and an email response sent!

          Look for an update here soon…

          July 8, 2013 at 20:32
  • db says:

    Any more comment placed here with “give me your address” will be deleted and permanently forgotten. HUNDREDS of folks have successfully contacted me, requested seeds, and received them…by reading the article.

    I bust my ass learning and writing this stuff, AND offer free seeds. If you want some of those seeds, the least you can do is read the damned article. Everything you need to find me is in there. If you can’t find it, I’m not helping you.

    I appreciate all of the interest, however, I’m not wasting any more of MY time on folks that will not put forth a little effort on their part.

    For those who have requested seeds since February 2014, expect up to a month delay, as I’ve received several hundred requests.

    If you do not wish to wait, they can be purchased here:

    http://www.localharvest.org/native-florida-wild-everglades-tomato-seeds-C19069

    They are the original source for my plants, and very nice folks…tell them Floridahillbilly sent you!

    February 3, 2014 at 16:45
  • Linda says:

    That’s the entitlement generation for you! Sorry people have been giving you a hard time. What’s that saying – no good deed goes unpunished.You sent me seeds last year and I have been giving them to the garden group at work. I mentioned your name to Green Deane since I take his foraging class when it’s here in Jax. Once again, there are lots of us who appreciate you!

    April 9, 2014 at 15:16
    • db says:

      My thoughts exactly.

      Green Deane and I have talked a few times, I make as many of his walks as I possibly am able to, WELL worth the effort!

      His website, EatTheWeeds.com is also a fantastic resource.

      April 9, 2014 at 20:44

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