Sara's Galapagos tomatoes are great additions to salads
Darwin made the Galapagos Islands famous as the basis for much of his work involving evolution. And strange islands they are. The Galapagos Islands are home to the only Northern Hemisphere penguin, the only swimming lizard, and tortoises that are the longest-lived land vertebrate, with some living to be over 150 years old.
But these ancient islands also have tomatoes, and one of them, Sara's Galapagos tomato, is fast becoming a garden favorite because of its taste, high yields and extreme resistance to diseases.
Sara's Galapagos tomatoes are tiny, red currant tomatoes found growing wild in 2002 on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos. The fruits are the size of large raisins, with full, big-tomato taste. They begin producing very early and continue putting out tomatoes right up until frost. A single plant can put out up to 11,000 tomatoes over the season. The tiny tomatoes are crack resistant and almost immune to all diseases. As a bonus, the plants are tolerant of drought and get by with less water than many full-sized tomatoes.
Besides being the perfect pop-in-your-mouth snack, Sara's Galapagos tomatoes are great additions to salads, and can be cooked down into a rich, deep-red sauce. They are also good for drying.
You can direct seed tomatoes right into the garden in late spring when the ground has warmed up and all danger of frost has passed, or you can establish them indoors to get a head start.
To start your Sara's Galapagos tomatoes indoors, begin six to eight weeks before your last spring frost. Plant the seeds a quarter-inch deep with two or three seeds per peat pot.
Water gently and place the pots in a warm place, ideally 75-80˚ F. Once the tomato plants sprout, move them to where they will get strong light, such as under grow lights or a sunny window.
Never use garden soil to start seeds indoors, because garden soil often drains poorly and may contain disease organisms.
After your tomato plants have grown a few inches high, thin them so there is only one plant per pot. Use scissors to cut out the extra seedlings rather than pulling them up by the roots. That way you won't accidentally pull up all of the seedlings. Every week or two, apply a water-soluble organic fertilizer at half strength.
When setting your transplants into the garden, pinch off the lower leaves and plant them so all of the bare stem is buried. The plants will grow roots from the buried stem, making stronger plants able to stand up to wind without toppling over. This is also a good way to save any plants that have grown too tall or leggy.
These are large, sprawling plants, so space them three to four feet apart if you do not stake them. Leave a good four feet between the rows. After planting, water the tomato plants thoroughly.
During the growing season, water the tomato plants in the early morning, which lets them get through the heat of the day. Never water in the evening, because this encourages disease.
Seeds for Sara's Galapagos tomato are available from specialty seed houses such as Underwood Gardens (www.underwoodgardens.com) or Reimers Seeds (www.reimerseeds.com). Be sure to order genuine Sara's Galapagos tomato seeds; they are different from another tomato, the Wild Galapagos, which is a yellow cherry type.
Plant Sara's Galapagos tomatoes and you will get vitamin-rich, tasty, raisin-sized tomatoes in the thousands. As your gardening skills evolve, it just may be your best natural selection.