Grafting tomato plants offers benefits

Leslie Cox: Duchess of Dirt

Leslie Cox

Special to The Record

Well…I promised more this column about the new tomato plant I am growing this year, the grafted tomato. As I mentioned, I have been reading about these for a few years now.

Grafting tomatoes sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? Imagine slicing through the stem of a young seedling and attaching it to the stem of another seedling. Anyone who handles seedlings knows how risky this can be.

Would you believe the Japanese and Koreans have been grafting vegetables since the 1920s? They started with melons, using the stronger squash varieties as root stock. Their aim was to boost fruit production for greenhouse growing.

Nowadays, growers are also grafting squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers…and tomatoes. And they are using machines to do it! Mind-boggling.

As you can imagine, it is an expensive operation. But the benefits include strong growth, as well as a hardiness towards soil-borne diseases (such as early and late blight for tomatoes) and harmful nematodes. Plus increased fruit yield.

With late blight running rampant in our region, a resistant tomato is a godsend. We do love our tomatoes…based on it being one of the top-grown vegetable varieties in the garden.

So what grafted variety did I select? One of the newest in the blue tomato line-up…Indigo Apple. Well, technically, the skin of the fruits will ripen to a deep purple-black colour. (Not really sure where the term “blue” tomato came from.)

The Indigo line began with Indigo Rose coming onto the market in 2012. Indigo Blue Beauty followed with Indigo Blue Berries and Indigo Apple coming available this year. All of these are open-pollinated varieties. Indigo Kumquat is the lone F1 hybrid.

Vegetable breeders at Oregon State University (OSU) embarked on a breeding program to increase the anthocyanin levels in tomatoes as a means of increasing the fruit’s antioxidant potential. (Remember: tomatoes are a favourite food crop.) Their aim: a new, healthy food choice in the battle against cancer.

Actually, the very beginnings of this particular breeding began sometime in the 1960s. A couple of breeders cross-pollinated wild species from the Galapagos Islands and Chile with cultivated tomato varieties. While many tomato species contain anthocyanins in their stems and leaves, only some wild species have these flavonoids in their fruits.

By the way…the breeders at OSU are using totally appropriate hybridizing methods. Israeli scientists also used conventional breeding methods in developing their anthocyanin-boosted black tomato, Black Galaxy.

But genetic engineering is not to be left out of this latest attempt to increase human health. British scientists have used gene splicing methods and snapdragon genes to up the anthocyanin levels in their chosen tomato. The colour in their tomato extends beyond the skin and into the fruit. (Tomatoes in the Indigo series are red inside.)

The discerning fact I have uncovered is this GM tomato is currently being grown on a farm in Ontario. It is the hope of one of the principal breeders, Professor Cathie Martin, that the juice made from these Canadian-grown tomatoes will soon make it onto grocery shelves. They will be promoting it as a healthy food choice.

Also disturbing…approval for growing this British-bred GM tomato has not been granted in the UK. According to Professor Martin, “I can’t stress enough how enlightened the Canadian regulatory process towards these types of [genetically modified] foods is – it has truly been fantastic.” (National Post; January 27, 2014.)

Back to my grafted Indigo Apple tomato plant…assuredly, this variety is non-GMO. And its first tomato has already appeared…before the middle of June! Even in its infancy, it is definitely purple-black in colour. Taste results to follow….

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.

 

Just Posted

Associate pastor made early connections in Courtenay

Central Evangelical Free Church opens at former Record office

Seeing double, the trials and tribulations of twins

BIG READ: Three Vancouver Island mothers share their experiences with multiple births

Comox Valley teen with autism a spectacular guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in Port Alice exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

Conservation officer frees B.C. deer from flotation gear mishap

BC Conservation Officer Service is reminding residents to keep backyards clear of entanglements

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

B.C. deaf community wants different sign languages on federal accessibility act

Advocates also want Indigenous Sign Language to be recognized on the Indigenous Language Act

VIDEO: B.C.-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech

Family asks first responders to look after one another in wake of suicide, growing concerns of PTSD

Airline has ‘close call’ with drone while en route to B.C. airport

Jazz Aviation reported the drone sighting near Vancouver to the RCMP and Transport Canada

Tragic accident claims life of B.C. toddler

Fundraising effort has been created to help mom and family

B.C. nanny charged with sex abuse of 3 children

Saanich Police seek potential victims of Johnathon Lee Robichaud from Central Saanich

‘I’m no quitter’ on climate change issues, McKenna says at G7 ministers meeting

David Suzuki says if McKenna believes what she’s saying, she too should quit

Most Read