Seed Saving: beginner
Minturno Tomato - Long Storage Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Serbian Tomato Minturno (Lycopersicon lycopersicum): few years ago a very old woman, who is no longer with us, told me about how she grew “winter” tomatoes (dried) during the WWII in Borgo Montello, a small village in Latina.
They hung for the winter and were watered with water brought from a stream; a rustic plant with very few needs growing at war, when everything, even manure, was a luxury.
She told me about a medium-size tomato, with thick, yellow skin, and very sweet. I was extremely impressed, because it is true that in the South, the “drying” is still – fortunately - a common practice. Even though in Lazio I had heard of it a few times, I had never seen a plant or a berry.
We started a quest for this variety, and after a while of searching for it, our efforts paid off, we came across it at the Arsial germplasm site, which we decided to take as the standard for what Lilia (the old woman’s name) probably cultivated seventy years ago. It almost disappeared, a few traces were left, but after two years of research it was still the Agro Pontino which came to us.
An afternoon as I walked around the “Migliari channel” with my nephew and explained to him what the recovery is, and the benefits of agriculture to the environment, we met a nice fisherman; after an alborella and some conversation, the winter tomatoes came out, he told me they were probably still grown in the southern area of Latina, I left with a name to contact.
My nephew was ten and I don’t think he could understand the reason to my new found happiness, on they way home.
In September 2018, we managed to find the seeds, not from the person I’d been told but in the same area, they were a few years old but they were enough, all that was left, was to try them.
Last year we sowed them, at germination three hundred jars came out, only forty plants. I was in the hospital when I got the first photos form our garden, perfect I should say, yellow as it should have been, berry-shaped the same for all the plants, and very few traces of hybridization among the forty plants, all of which reached maturity at the end of July. It was great news.
Lila is gone now, my nephew is back in the USA, and I got a bit of nostalgia and decided to put them on for free distribution, to anyone who asks for it, and automatically to every expedition to Lazio.
At this time, when the ancient seeds are more endangered than ever, and we are at risk of losing a very important part of our legacy, I feel like paying tribute to all of them.
Next year we sill subject the tomato to Arsial genetic analysis, but this time we will not give in to impatience.