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Preserving Heirloom Tomato Varieties

Fine Cooking Issue 59
Photos: Amy Albert
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Eastern Native Seed Conservancy in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is dedicated to making sure that regional, heirloom vegetable varieties endure. And although the Conservancy gathers seeds and propagates many types of plants, tomatoes are a specialty.  

Lawrence Davis-Hollander, who runs the project, says some varieties, like King Humbert, can be traced as far back as the late 1700s. “That’s pretty old, considering that tomatoes weren’t an everyday foodstuff here until around the Civil War,” he says. Lawrence tends and tracks about ninety varieties with equal care, but he does have his favorites. White Queen is the best-tasting white variety, he contends, while Indian Moon is the tastiest orange tomato. He’s partial to White Currant for its almost maply sweetness, and calls Aunt Ruby’s German Green “my answer to Green Zebra,” a fairly recent variety.  

Fostering the connection between people and plants is the Seed Conservancy’s main mission. But the hard work provides lots of pleasure, too. Says Lawrence, “What better way is there to promote conservation than preserving diverse colors, textures, and flavors that are great to look at and to eat?”

Plum Yellow Formed.
Ponderosa Red.
King Humbert.
Aunt Ruby’s German Green.
White Currant.
Trucker’s Favorite.
Indian Moon.
White Queen.


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