Friday, July 24, 2009

Arkansas Traveler Part III-Peaches, Pink Tomatoes, and Seed Saving

On our way back from Arkansas Naomi and I could not leave without stopping at a farmers' market and a roadside market while we were still in Arkansas. So it was that at 7:30 in the midst of a torrential down pour that we went to the Argenta Farmers' Market in downtown North Little Rock. Standing in the rain I got to speak to a couple of the farmers and bought two baskets of peaches and half dozen or so Arkansas heirloom tomatoes, the Arkansas Travelers Tomato.

The Arkansas Traveler is a pink tomato that is supposed to have less acidity than its red relatives. This tomato is beloved in Arkansas due to its natural resistance to cracking and splitting as well as its superb taste. Four of the tomatoes made their way to topping a pesto pizza last night, one was a gift to a good friend, and the last one I harvested its seeds.

Seed saving the tomato was much easier than I expected and to tell you the truth I wasn't expecting much. Here is the process:
Select to save seeds from a tomato that has a flavor that you love....if you're a home gardener and saving seeds from tomatoes that are growing in your garden choose tomatoes from the very healthiest looking plants.

Take your chosen tomato and slice it in half across the middle (it's "equator"). With a spoon or your well-washed fingers scoop out the seeds and their gelatinous "goo" into a clean cup or container. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the seeds. Cover the container with a piece of plastic-wrap and then poke the plastic-wrap with a paring knife or pen point to put a small hole in it...this is to allow for air-transpiration. (A little fresh air needs to get in and out of the cup to help foster fermentation.)

Place the container of seeds in a warm location; a sunny windowsill or the top of the refrigerator are both excellent sites to place the container of seeds. Now Mother Nature will take over and begin to ferment the seed and water mixture. This takes about two or three days. Each night remove the plastic-wrap, stir the seed and water mixture, and then replace the plastic-wrap, if you use a new sheet of plastic-wrap then don't forget to put a small hole in it for air-transpiration. The top of the liquid will look "scummy" when the fermentation process has separated the "goo" from the seeds. It also helps destroy many of the possible tomato diseases that can be harbored by seeds.

Take the container of fermented seeds to the sink and with a spoon carefully remove the scummy surface. Then pour the container's contents into a fine kitchen sieve and rinse the seeds with water several times...stir them while they're in the sieve to assure that all surfaces are thoroughly rinsed. Give a few sharp taps to the sieve to help remove as much loose water as possible from the seeds.

Line an open plate with a piece of waxed paper or a large automatic-drip coffee filter. Place the rinsed seeds onto the wax paper or coffee filter and spread them about so they are in a single layer. Place the plate in a safe location where the seeds can dry for a few days. Stir the seeds a few times during the drying process to assure that all their surfaces are evenly dry. Spread them out again into a single layer after each time you've stirred them. Tomato seeds are thick and can take up to a week to dry thoroughly. If you're having a rainy week that drying time may lengthen by a few days.

These seeds I will save for next year and try to grow some of my own. This variety enjoys hot humid weather and takes approximately 85 days to bear ripen fruit.

We also bought peaches at the farmers' market and a roadside stand that was in the parking lot of a gas station in Brinkley. We bought a total of 48 peaches that Naomi used to make jelly, she canned some, and she froze some of them as well. Of course as luck would have it we got another dozen in our CSA share as well.

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