stamens and stigmas and seed: tomatoes

Tomato season and here’s the reminder to go out with a hand lens or your best close-up eyesight and have a look at your tomato flowers. Only by looking can you know for sure whether your varieties are pollinating themselves or crossing with their neighbors. What you’re looking for is the central stigma poking up through the clasp of fused stamens – a cross-pollinator – or not poking out – a self-pollinator. But a picture’s worth a thousand words, and there are good ones at The Sex Life of Tomatoes, along with a more complete explanation.

janueflamme8-14The one variety I’m growing this year is Jaune Flamme, an apricot sized and colored French heirloom with a lovely fruity taste. Like most heirlooms it can cross-pollinate. The photo here shows the fruits that ripened over the course of three days on my ten potted plants, half of which are stunted by containers that are too small for them. Big producers, these Young Flames. I’m hardly eating them (avoiding tomatoes as part of my arthritis healing program), just squeezing out the seeds and cooking the remaining pulp into sauce for guests or to freeze. If you haven’t saved tomato seeds before, check any of the Laughing Frog tomato pages, like Jaune Flamme’s, for succinct directions. You can definitely eat your tomatoes and save the seed too.