Learn how the Snarky Gardener created his own tomato variety – the Snarky Orange Cherry Tomato.
In 2012, before the Snarky Gardener grew his own starts, he purchased way too many SunGold cherry tomatoes (6 if memory serves) from a local garden shop. SunGold is an F1 hybrid, meaning that it’s produced by crossing two varieties to get a better, stronger plant. Conventional wisdom says not to save F1 seed because one doesn’t know what or how the next generation will produce. With this knowledge, I saved none of this seed, but biology had a different plan. Last spring, while prepping the garden for planting, I noticed a massive clump of “volunteers” (plants that just grow on their own from the year before). They were obviously SunGolds as the orange outer skin of the parent fruit could still be seen. So in a flash of inspiration, my shovel relocated them to 4 different spots along my tomato fence. Each clump had several plants, so I thinned them out over a period of weeks until just one remained in each spot. Here’s the strange part – of the 4 remaining plants, 2 produced orange tomatoes and 2 produced red tomatoes. The orange fruits were as tasty as its parents, the red not so much, so I collected only orange seed last fall, naming them Snarky Orange cherry tomatoes as they can’t really be considered SunGold anymore. In biology terms, these 2013 volunteers were F2s, AKA the second generation, and 2014’s version is considered an F3. I am currently growing a Snarky Orange F3 in my AeroGarden and it’s orange as the original F1.
The question is “Why would anyone go to the trouble of breeding out an F1 while there are so many tomato varieties in the world?” I think the answer for me is “Just to try and see what happens” as I love to experiment. Also, if you save seeds from your own garden, they are adapted to your growing conditions. Think about it – these Snarky Orange volunteered and thrived so the environment was exactly what they wanted. And when I raise and save them this season, they will be even more adapted, something you’re not going to get out of an F1 hybrid you need to buy every year.