There’s a lot going on right now in the world of food and food production, and there are some really good articles out there to help you navigate the murky waters. Check these out:

An informative, well-written analysis of the late blight problem for this year’s tomato crop. I’ve heard a lot of fellow gardeners bemoaning late blight this year. But my tomatoes are going strong, and I haven’t seen this problem. After reading this article, I realized why: I started the majority of my tomatoes from seed. Most of the late blight has been caused by commercially produced tomato starts. Score one for the seed savers!

You may have heard rustlings about the new food safety bill. While few would deny that our food system needs some major safety checks, the food safety bill that recently passed the Housedoes very little to regulate the industrial farms. Whether small farmers have as much to fear as they think they do remains to be seen. This bill has yet to pass the Senate (they will vote when they re-adjourn this month), so let your voice be heard by contacting your state senators.

If you’ve been reading the Exchange this summer, you’re aware of some of the issues surrounding Monsanto. Now comes an interesting look at the evolution of coca plants in South America. Glysophate, which is the herbicide Monsanto developed and sells under the Round Up label, has been used in the war on drugs to kill coca and poppy plants. As with the so-called super weeds that have become resistant to Round Up, a new strain of the coca plant has emerged (or been developed) that is unaffected by Round Up. Governments, in their quaint governmental ways, are refusing to talk about the issue.

Ah, money. I love the way you pervert everything you come in contact with.


Tomato — Lycopersicon lycopersicon

plant profile

The humble tomato originated in Latin and South America. Brought to Europe by Columbus, it was for many years considered a death-inducing oddity. Today, many of us would consider summer to be incomplete without the flavor of a freshly picked tomato.

Though most tomatoes are red and slightly acidic to the taste, this favorite fruit has a wide variety of colors, sizes, flavors, and uses. It is also fairly easy to save tomato seed.

steps for saving tomato seed

  1. Most tomato flowers are self-pollinating. Though cross-pollination is possible, it has, in my experience, been non-existent. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, just that it most likely won’t. Therefore, you can grow as many different types of tomatoes as you have room or desire for, often with little or no spacing issues.
  2. Pick ripe tomatoes from plants whose fruits exhibit those characteristics you most enjoy.
  3. Cut the fruit in half and squeeze the seeds into a cup or container.
  4. Once you’ve completed step #3, fill your container with a little water. Tomato seeds form inside gelatinous sacks whose purpose is to keep the seeds from germinating inside the fruit. Because of this, you must put the seeds through a very simple fermentation process.
  5. Stir your seeds 2-3 times a day. This will speed the fermentation process.
  6. Once the liquid has formed a layer of mold, or when bubbles can be seen rising to the surface, the process is complete. Note: this mixture smells noxious. If you do this inside your house, make sure to place the mixture where it can’t spill!
  7. Double or triple the liquid in the mixture with clean water, skim the mold from the surface, then pour the mixture through a strainer.
  8. Rinse the seeds and place them on a plate or metal surface. Do not use cloth or paper, as the seeds will dry and stick, becoming virtually impossible to pry loose.
  9. Stir the seeds once or twice a day to prevent sticking.
  10. Once dry, place the seed in an air tight container. I find old prescription bottles work perfectly.
  11. Properly stored tomato seed will remain viable for up to 10 years (though I usually grow mine out after 3 or 4). Seed keeps longer if stored in the freezer.